Scientists are predicting that the frequency of dust storms, on the rise in the last few years, will continue to increase. Some have also suggested that these storms might well be carrying a more hazardous payload than meets the eye. Among the dangers that experts say are blowing in the wind: asthma triggers, toxic chemicals and infectious disease.
“We are experiencing heat waves and drought across the country. And we anticipate more dust being blown into the air,” said William Sprigg, a dust storm expert at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. “Anything that is loose on the soil is going to be picked up by these storms.”
A look back 80 years to the Dust Bowl could offer a hint of what’s to come. According to a scientific study published in October 1935, Kansas experienced its “most severe measles epidemic,” as well as abnormally high rates of strep throat, respiratory problems, eye infections and infant mortality during the intense dust storms that struck from February to May of that year. The researchers highlighted the potential for both short- and long-term health troubles associated with the dust, but stated that they couldn’t find any pathogens in their dust samples.