The dust storms that have hit North India have led to damage that has been the worst in the last 20 years! While the death toll is sadly still on a rise and news channels are flashing that the worst is yet to arrive, the country can’t stop wondering what can be done to prevent damage. Also, the ecological costs are getting insurmountable as as per the environment ministry, a quarter of the country’s land is witnessing desertification. However, if we talk about the health harms that the storm brings along, there are primarily four. Even if you are sitting inside locked doors and are apparently safe, the quality of air won’t give you a respite.
Dust storm is a phenomenon that is common in hot and dry climates. The word dust storm is English for the Arabic word Haboob, meaning violent and gusty winds.
Talking simply, it is a large availability of sand or dust along with sustained wind such that the wind can get the particles moving. One common consequence, thus, is poor visibility.
The faster the wind blows, the worse repercussions it has. A speesd as less as 25 mph can lead to loosening of the particles. In India, the speed is likely to touch 70 kmph, ranging from 50 to 60 mostly.
Dust storms and squalls are commonly accompanied by thunderstorms and rain.
The air quality in North India has worsened in the past days, crossing 250 in the NCR. The main pollutant is PM 2.5, the deadly tiny particle. As per studies, PM 2.5 can lead to various health hazards, including premature death.
PM 2.5 is so tiny that it cannot be seen by naked eye. Hence, it can easily enter your body by surpassing your nasal hair and throat. Also, the particles can infiltrate your body’s defence system and very badly affect your respiratory system.
This can lead to chronic problems such as bronchitis, asthma, heart problemsand many respiratory problems. For people who are already suffering from asthma, this can be much worse as it can lead to worsening of the lung function.
Besides PM 2.5, the dust storms can also be carriers of heavy metals such as arsenic, fertilisers and pesticides and many other bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Dust storms can also lead to dust pneumonia, a condition of excessive exposure to dust which leads to the filling of lungs with dust and the inflammation of the alveoli. It was a very common condition during the Dust Bowl of the United States. Common symptoms of the disease include chest pain, coughing, high fever and breathing difficulty. The disease is often fatal.
The flying dust particles can also often get into your eyes, leading to problems such as eye injuries, corneal scratches and depending on what gets into it, the condition can be much severe.
The best bet would be to stay indoors as much as possible while keeping the doors and windows closed. However, make sure that you are purifying the air by using an efficient particulate air filter as often, the air stuck inside homes can be worse than the air outdoors.
Wear an air pollution mask and make sure that it is N95 certified as only those ones have been tested for filtration performance.
Eat foods that increase your resistance against PM 2.5, such as Vitamin C, E and beta carotene rich foods. They include green leafy vegetables, almonds, carrots and many more.timesofindia
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