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The impact of Sahara dust on air quality and public health in European countries

: Wang, Qiaoqiao; Gu, Jianwei; Wang, Xurong


Atmospheric environment 241 (2020), Art. 117771, 10 pp.
ISSN: 0004-6981
ISSN: 1352-2310
Journal Article
Fraunhofer WKI ()
African dust; particulate matter; air quality; health effect; mortality; Europe; GEOS-Chem

The frequent transport of Sahara dust toward Europe degrades the air quality and poses risk to human health. In this study we use GEOS-Chem (a global transport model) to examine the impact of Sahara dust on air quality and the consequent health effect in Europe (10°W – 20°E, 35°N – 60°N) for the year 2016–2017. The model performance is evaluated by comparisons with surface observations including aerosol optical depth (AOD) from AERONET, and PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations from numerous monitoring stations. The spatial distribution of dust concentrations, frequency of dust episodes, as well as the exposure and health effects are studied. The concentrations of Sahara dust decrease from 5–20 μg m−3 in south to 0.5–1.0 μg m−3 in north of Europe. Spain and Italy are most heavily influenced by Sahara dust in terms of both concentration levels and frequencies of occurrence. Strong dust episodes (>50 μg m−3) occur predominately in Southern Spain and Italy with frequency of 2–5%, while light dust episodes (>1 μg m−3) are often detected (5–30%) in Central and Western Europe. The population-weighted dust concentrations are higher in Southern European countries (3.3–7.9 μg m−3) and lower in Western European countries (0.5–0.6 μg m−3). We estimate a total of 41884 (95% CI: 2110–81658) deaths per year attributed to the exposure to dust in the 13 European countries studied. Due to high contribution to PM10 in Spain, Italy and Portugal, dust accounts for 44%, 27% and 22% of the total number of deaths linked to PM10 exposure, respectively.