Air Quality Difficult to Gauge in Dustier American West – NYTimes.com

11 Dec

The survey said that 13.6 percent of the adult residents in the deeply rural and mostly undeveloped region suffer from asthma, compared with about 7.5 percent nationally, according to federal figures.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said there was no clear explanation for the increase.

Scientists caution that links between asthma and dust are not certain. Other air problems in the West, like ground-level ozone in natural-gas drilling areas that has plagued some places in Wyoming and pollution from coal-fired power plants, complicate the air story as well. Asthma rates have also gone up in many other parts of the country.

But a study this year looking at dust generated by off-road vehicle use at the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area near Las Vegas found dust samples with naturally occurring arsenic and palygorskite, a mineral similar to asbestos, which could under certain circumstances pose potential health risks. The study, commissioned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, said that four-wheelers and bikes stirred up as much of the mineral-laden dust as wind did.

via Air Quality Difficult to Gauge in Dustier American West – NYTimes.com.

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