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The Impact of African Dust on Childhood Asthma Morbidity in Barbados

Bridgetown, Barbados


Over the past several decades, as global climate changes have lead to excessively dry conditions and severe dust storms in Africa, asthma prevalence has risen in Barbados. The estimated prevalence of asthma among school-aged children has increased from 1% to 16% in the past 35 years.14;26 While the reasons are unclear, changes in the air quality related to the Saharan dust clouds carried by Trade Winds may be an important contributor. It is estimated that 20 million tons of dust particles arrive in the Caribbean annually leading to airborne particulate matter (PM) concentrations in Barbados that frequently exceed the U.S. EPA standards for acceptable outdoor air quality. While there is popular belief in Barbados that Saharan dust worsens asthma, the few studies to date have yielded conflicting results and relied on ecologic data instead of environmental monitoring and health assessment at the individual level. To definitively determine whether Saharan dust particles cause asthma or worsening of asthma will require a well-planned, large longitudinal study linking airborne PM to asthma or a clinical trial of an intervention that improves air quality and results in improved asthma. To properly plan such a study, we propose to collect data to refine methods needed to conduct personal environmental monitoring and assess daily asthma outcomes among the residents of Caribbean islands. This study will be conducted by an interdisciplinary team of environmental engineers, clinicians, epidemiologists, and atmospheric scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and University of Miami.


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