Dust Storms and Respiratory Emergency Department Visits in the Southwestern United States Restricted; Files Only

Rowan, Claire (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8336h319j?locale=en


Dust storms are associated with many varying adverse health effects such as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, and motor vehicle accidents. Past studies additionally have found links between total mortality, hospital admissions, and emergency department (ED) visits. This study aims to provide a better understanding of the potential links between dust storms and respiratory-related ED visits in four southwestern states of the U.S. The IMPROVE monitoring program collects detailed data on pollutants; the in-depth pollutant information collected can be used to identify dust storms using a validated algorithm. Using a case-crossover design to study acute health events, we estimated odds ratios for respiratory, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ED visits overall, and by state, for dust storm compared to non-dust storm days.

We found increased risk of ED visits for all respiratory diseases and asthma with dust storms in the previous three days, with strongest associations in Arizona. For example, the odds of respiratory ED visits were approximately 6.7% higher two and three days after a dust storm. In Arizona, the association of asthma emergency department visits and dust storms three days prior was: OR of 1.100, 95% CI: (1.010, 1.197). No significant associations were found for COPD or in California, likely due to limited power in the number of dust events and ED visits.

The increasing frequency of dust storms has been associated with climate change through the desertification of soil and increasing ocean temperatures. Dust storms are liked to higher air temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing snow melt and lessening glacial formation during winter months. The observed findings in this analysis on all respiratory and asthma emergency department visits add to the existing literature on dust storms and adverse respiratory health effects. 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Methods

2.1. Dust Storm and Other Air Quality Data

2.2. Emergency Department Visit Data

2.3 Application of Case-Crossover Analysis

3. Results

3.1. Dust Event and Emergency Department Visit Descriptive Statistics

3.2. Comparing Pollutant Concentrations on Dust and Non-Dust Days

3.3. Associations of Dust Storms and Respiratory ED Visits

    3.3.1. Secondary Analyses – Stratified by State

    3.3.2. Secondary Analyses – Buffer Zones

   3.3.3. Secondary Analyses – Definition of Asthma

   3.3.4. Secondary Analyses – Additional Lags

4. Discussion

5. Conclusion

6. References

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