KY Dept. Health Issues Air Quality Warning for Sahara Dust

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) – On Friday, Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack warned Kentuckians that air quality in the state may be poor this weekend and next week. A huge cloud of dry, dusty air that originated over the Sahara desert will move across the southern United States for the next three to seven days.

“We need to be cautious this weekend and next week, monitor the air quality index in our area and, if necessary, limit our time outside,” said Governor Beshear. “We have already shown that we can come together to fight a global pandemic for months, so I know we can take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones for a week.”

This type of dust plume, known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), is an annual phenomenon in late spring, summer, and early fall. It can occupy a layer 2-2.5 miles thick in the atmosphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, the most recent SAL cloud, first formed on June 14, is unusually large. It is one of the thickest on record and is nearly 5,000 miles long. That means it could have a significant negative impact on air quality when moving over Kentucky.

Poor air quality can aggravate those with respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD. It can also present health risks to older people and young children.

“Fortunately, unlike COVID-19, this is a short-term problem, and the masks that most Kentishians already wear will also help protect them from dust inhalation,” said Dr. Stack. “But this remains a serious risk for our younger and older residents, as well as for those with respiratory problems. We have to be especially careful this weekend when spending a lot of time outdoors. Kentuckians should constantly check the air quality in their zip code at and watch for any changes in the color and visibility of the sky. “

Dust particles in the air can cause eye irritation, throat and lung irritation, and breathing problems. To help prevent health-related problems, people should review and practice the following tips to help limit exposure:

Pay attention to local air quality reports at and be on the lookout for news or health warnings about dust particles in your area. Pay attention to public health messages and take additional safety measures, such as avoiding spending time outdoors.

· Continue to wear the protective mask you are wearing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mask will also help prevent exposure to dust particles if used correctly.

· Keep windows and doors closed unless it is very hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh air inlet and filter clean to prevent dust from entering. Seek shelter elsewhere if you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to stay indoors with the windows closed.

· Follow your doctor’s advice about medications and your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

In the coming days, the Kentucky Department of Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Department of Public Health will continue to work with local and state officials to monitor the Sahara dust column and, if necessary, disseminate additional health advice and guidance. to protect our Kentuckian fellow citizens.

To learn more about the Kentucky Department of Public Health, click here.

Copyright 2020 WBKO. All rights reserved.


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