When the dust settles: a review of the health implications of the dust component of air pollution

This review of the epidemiological literature on fugitive dust indicates the likelihood of significant public health impacts from both short- and long-term exposure to both fine and coarse dust. These impacts are observed in populations that are both near to and distant from the original dust sources. However, given the difficulties in measuring exposures to fugitive dust and the lack of health and exposure data in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), additional studies are warranted. This requires careful monitoring of ground-level ambient air quality, as well as high-quality data on both mortality and morbidity. Pending further studies, global and local quantification of health impacts of outdoor air pollution should not exclude the contribution of dust from the measurement of particulate-matter concentrations. However, it is reasonable to provide a sensitivity analysis to the impact assessment that excludes the contribution of dust. Unless or until additional evidence is forthcoming, it is reasonable to assume that the health risk per microgram of dust is generally similar to that of other constituents of particulate matter with the exceptions of sulfates and elemental carbon, for which there is fairly good evidence of greater effects than other constituents.