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Dust levels hit record-high in May

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Atmospheric dust levels hit a negative record in May, the worst for five years, with researchers indicating that due to climate change, dust episodes in Cyprus will become more frequent.

The Cyprus Institute said that recent measurements of the Center of Excellence for Climate and Atmospheric Research (CARE-C) show that concentration levels of dust-suspended particles recorded during the spring are the highest for May during the last five years.

It said more frequent and intense dust episodes had been observed in Cyprus, mainly due to the desertification of North Africa and the Middle East areas and reduced rainfall.

The most important dust sources in North Africa are the desert lands of Chad, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt.

Depending on wind direction and weather systems affecting the Eastern Mediterranean region, Cyprus is subject to dust episodes that are more intense during spring.

During the recent phenomena in May, the concentration of suspended particles with a diameter less than 10μm measured in Nicosia reached 260 mg/m3.

“These values are almost six times the air quality limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO),” it said.

These particles usually comprise silicon iron and manganese compounds; fungi and bacteria are sometimes carried through these particles.

In addition, dust episodes can also cause respiratory problems.

When inhaled, the particles enter the lungs, which can cause respiratory diseases, cardiovascular problems, and allergic nasal and eye reactions.

The Institute said that when there is a warning for dust, the public and particularly vulnerable groups should limit going out in open spaces, especially beaches, where they could be much more exposed.

“People who play sports are advised to remain in covered spaces.

“People with asthma and breathing problems may need inhalations of respiratory medicine more often.

“Also, wearing a mask can limit exposure to dust particles,” the Institute said.