Air Quality Alert As Saharan Dust Covers South Florida

The Air Quality Index (AQI) for Miami-Dade County is currently in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” range. The level of particulate matter concentration in ambient air indicates the presence of Saharan dust in the county.

The Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and the Health Department are advising citizens – especially children, the elderly and pregnant women – to take precautionary steps, stay indoors, and to continue monitoring the AQI during the coming days.

The Saharan dust, a mass of extremely dry and dusty air, travels across the Atlantic Ocean by strong winds from the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa during late spring to early autumn. The dry and dusty air creates milky skies and brings high temperatures to the region.

DERM offers a free service that allows subscribers to receive a daily air quality forecast for Miami-Dade County. Residents can subscribe online. Additionally, residents can also view the latest Air Quality Index (AQI) for Miami-Dade County online, or call 305-372-6925 for more information.

DERM and the Health Department recommend that residents, especially vulnerable populations, follow the guidelines below during an incident of high dust or particulate matter levels:

Recommendations:                                                                                                                                          

  • Limit outdoor activities and remain in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Stay indoor with well-functioning air conditioning and ventilation systems.
  • Do not add to indoor air pollution. Do not vacuum, use candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not smoke.
  • Leave the area until the dust has cleared if there is no air conditioning or if dust is likely to get inside the house.
  • Avoid activities that put extra demands on the lungs and heart. These include exercising or physical chores, both outdoors and indoors.
  • Take all medication according to the doctor’s instructions.
  • Contact your medical provider if you are concerned about your health or if your health worsens.

Dust from the Sahara Desert can cause an inflammatory response, even in healthy people. It can make people feel sick and lethargic, causing sinus symptoms, including congestion, trouble breathing, asthma attacks, incessant sneezing, swelling of the throat and eyes, coughing, watery and itchy eyes, and/or a runny and stuffy nose. Dust can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases. 

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