Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (Jan 2014)

Modeled global effects of airborne desert dust on air quality and premature mortality

  • D. Giannadaki,
  • A. Pozzer,
  • J. Lelieveld

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 2
pp. 957 – 968


Read online

Fine particulate matter is one of the most important factors contributing to air pollution. Epidemiological studies have related increased levels of atmospheric particulate matter to premature human mortality caused by cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer. However, a limited number of investigations have focused on the contribution of airborne desert dust particles. Here we assess the effects of dust particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 μm (DU2.5) on human mortality for the year 2005. We used the EMAC atmospheric–chemistry general circulation model at high resolution to simulate global atmospheric dust concentrations. We applied a health impact function to estimate premature mortality for the global population of 30 yr and older, using parameters from epidemiological studies. We estimate a global cardiopulmonary mortality of about 402 000 in 2005. The associated years of life lost are about 3.47 million per year. We estimate the global fraction of the cardiopulmonary deaths caused by atmospheric desert dust to be about 1.8%, though in the 20 countries most affected by dust this is much higher, about 15–50%. These countries are primarily found in the so-called "dust belt" from North Africa across the Middle East and South Asia to East Asia