Health and Safety Effects of Airborne Soil Dust in the Americas and Beyond

Daniel Q. Tong, Thomas E. Gill, William A. Sprigg, Robert Scott Van Pelt, Alexander A. Baklanov, Bridget Marie Barker, Jesse E. Bell, Juan Castillo, Santiago Gassó, Cassandra J. Gaston, Dale W. Griffin, Nicolas Huneeus, Ralph A. Kahn, Arunas P. Kuciauskas, Luis A. Ladino, Junran Li, Olga L. Mayol-Bracero, Orion Z. McCotter, Pablo A. Méndez-Lázaro, Pierpaolo MuduSlobodan Nickovic, Damian Oyarzun, Joseph Prospero, Graciela B. Raga, Amit U. Raysoni, Ling Ren, Nikias Sarafoglou, Andrea Sealy, Ziheng Sun, Ana Vukovic Vimic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Risks associated with dust hazards are often underappreciated, a gap between the knowledge pool and public awareness that can be costly for impacted communities. This study reviews the emission sources and chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of airborne soil particles (dust) and their effects on human and environmental health and safety in the Pan-American region. American dust originates from both local sources (western United States, northern Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina) and long-range transport from Africa and Asia. Dust properties, as well as the trends and interactions with criteria air pollutants, are summarized. Human exposure to dust is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma, allergies, fungal infections, and premature death. In the Americas, a well-documented and striking effect of soil dust is its association with Coccidioidomycosis, commonly known as Valley fever, an infection caused by inhalation of soil-dwelling fungi unique to this region. Besides human health, dust affects environmental health through nutrients that increase phytoplankton biomass, contaminants that diminish water supply and affect food (crops/fruits/vegetables and ready-to-eat meat), spread crop and marine pathogens, cause Valley fever among domestic and wild animals, transport heavy metals, radionuclides and microplastics, and reduce solar and wind power generation. Dust is also a safety hazard to road transportation and aviation, in the southwestern US where blowing dust is one of the deadliest weather hazards. To mitigate the harmful effects, coordinated regional and international efforts are needed to enhance dust observations and prediction capabilities, soil conservation measures, and Valley fever and other disease surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021RG000763
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • America
  • dust
  • environmental health
  • health effect
  • mitigation
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'Health and Safety Effects of Airborne Soil Dust in the Americas and Beyond'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this