Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Symposium Abstracts
Measuring the Acute Health Effects of Dust Storms: A Matched Analysis
Background and Objectives:
Transcontinental sandstorms are frequent in the eastern Mediterranean basin, with southeasterly winds transporting dust from the Sahara desert. The resulting ambient particulate matter is a potential health hazard for exposed populations. We aimed to quantify the extent of acute cardiac and respiratory health effects attributable to sandstorms in an Eastern Mediterranean region.
Continuous air quality monitoring is carried out by the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection. We identified all sandstorm days (SSDs) for the period between January 2006 and December 2008. For each of these “case” days, we selected 2 non-sandstorm control days from the previous and the subsequent fortnights, matching them for day of the week. The number of emergency department (ED) visits for acute cardio-respiratory conditions at a regional medical center was counted for each SSD and its matched control days. SSD counts were compared to mean matched counts using the paired t-test.
48 SSDs and 96 matched control days were identified during the 3-year study period. Mean cardio-respiratory ED patient load on SSDs was 32.67 ± 11.39 visits, compared to a mean of 29.07 ± 5.33 on matched control days (P = 0.04). This represents a relative increase of 12.4% over the expected patient load. In absolute terms, and based on our medical center’s estimated catchment population, this represents an increase of approximately 1.8 ED visits per 100,000 for each SSD, or 2,160 excess cases annually in Israel.
Sandstorms are a significant risk factor for acute cardio-respiratory syndromes, with a substantial impact on ED patient load in our region. This finding underlines the importance of the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s pre-storm warning system, which appeals through the mass media to predisposed persons to remain indoors on SSDs. Future research should be focused on measuring the impact of sandstorms on community clinic patient load.© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.