Asian dust events are massive meteorological phenomena during which dust particles from Chinese and Mongolian deserts are blown into the atmosphere and carried by westerly winds across Northeast Asia. Recently, there has been steady increase in both the frequency and the severity of Asian atmospheric dust events. Concern has been expressed regarding the potential health hazards in affected areas. The principal nature of the damage associated with Asian dust events differs between the emission (sandstorm) and downwind (air pollution) regions. In the emission region, the health impacts of dust storms are reflected in the high prevalence of respiratory diseases and severe subjective symptoms. Extreme dust storm events may cause a disaster to happen. In downwind regions such as Japan, analysis of Asian dust particles has shown the presence of ammonium ions, sulfate ions, nitrate ions, and heavy metal compounds that are considered not to originate from soil. Asian dust particles have been thought to adsorb anthropogenic atmospheric pollutants during transport. Therefore, Asian dust events coincide with increases in daily hospital admissions and clinical visits for allergic diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and conjunctivitis. Although the effect of Asian dust on human health in each region is influenced by a variety of different mechanisms, human activities are partly responsible for such negative effects in many situations. We therefore need to address these environmental problems.
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