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Mitigating the Health Effects of Desert Dust Storms Using Exposure-Reduction Approaches

by Enric Terradellas last modified Jun 16, 2017 01:00 PM

The University of Cyprus (UCy) just announced that it has undertaken, in cooperation with seven other organisations from Cyprus, Greece and Israel, a new European programme aimed at reducing the harmful effects of desert dust storms (DDS) to human health.

The €3.3m programme, titled “Mitigating the Health Effects of Desert Dust Storms Using Exposure-Reduction Approaches” (Medea), aims at establishing scientific evidence for the adoption of a strategic plan to reduce the effects of desert storm dust on human health in south-east Europe.

According to an announcement, Cyprus, Greece and Israel are the Mediterranean countries most affected by desert storm dust.

“Over the past 15 years, several scientific studies have shown that desert dust storm episodes, mainly from the deserts of the Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula, have increased in number and intensity in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, possibly due to desertification, climate variability and global warming,” the announcement said.

European authorities, it said, believe that these incidents are impossible to prevent, “tolerate them tacitly as harmless” and calculate them into their national daily and annual air quality limits for particulate matter up to 10 microns (PM10).

“In fact, however, recent scientific data from epidemiological studies associate exposure to PM10 during desert dust storm episodes with significant increases in mortality and hospital admissions with cardiovascular and respiratory problems,” it said.

It added that there is an urgent need for European Union policies to be modernised to reduce population exposure to PM10 and to enhance the flexible adaptation of EU citizens, populations and organisations to the increasing incidence and intensity of desert dust storm episodes.

“The ultimate goal of the Medea project is to demonstrate that a strategy for adapting to DDS incidents is feasible and effective and to provide relevant documentation to EU decision-makers,” it said.

Head of the programme is Professor of Paediatrics and Paediatric Pulmonology at the UCy medical school, Dr Panagiotis Gialouros, with main associate researchers Adjunct Professor of the medical school from the Harvard School of Public Health Dr. Petros Koutrakis and Assistant Professor of the University of Technology (TEPAK) Dr Stefania Papatheodorou.

The other Cypriot organisations that participate in the four-year programme that is to begin in September, are TEPAK, the Department of Air Quality, the Meteorological Service, and the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.

Information from Cyprus Mail Online

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