Saharan dust intrusions in Spain: Health impacts and associated synoptic conditions

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Abstract

Background:

A lot of papers have been published about the impact on mortality of Sahara dust intrusions in individual cities. However, there is a lack of studies that analyse the impact on a country and scarcer if in addition the analysis takes into account the meteorological conditions that favour these intrusions.

Objectives:

The main aim is to examine the effect of Saharan dust intrusions on daily mortality in different Spanish regions and to characterize the large-scale atmospheric circulation anomalies associated with such dust intrusions.

Methods:

For determination of days with Saharan dust intrusions, we used information supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Environment, it divides Spain into 9 main areas. In each of these regions, a representative province was selected. A time series analysis has been performed to analyse the relationship between daily mortality and PM10 levels in the period from 01.01.04 to 31.12.09, using Poisson regression and stratifying the analysis by the presence or absence of Saharan dust advections.

Results:

The proportion of days on which there are Saharan dust intrusions rises to 30% of days. The synoptic pattern is characterised by an anticyclonic ridge extending from northern Africa to the Iberian Peninsula. Particulate matter (PM) on days with intrusions are associated with daily mortality, something that does not occur on days without intrusions, indicating that Saharan dust may be a risk factor for daily mortality. In other cases, what Saharan dust intrusions do is to change the PM-related mortality behaviour pattern, going from PM2.5.

Conclusions:

A study such as the one conducted here, in which meteorological analysis of synoptic situations which favour Saharan dust intrusions, is combined with the effect on health at a city level, would seem to be crucial when it comes to analysing the differentiated mortality pattern in situations of Saharan dust intrusions.

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