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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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1 - Soil Resources & Air Quality Affected by Wind Erosion and Fugitive Dust Emissions (1)
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Dust storm in Bird City, KS

"There are things floating around in the air.  Most of them, you cannot even see.  They are a kind of air pollution called particles or particulate matter.  In fact, particulate matter may be the air pollutant that most commonly affects people's health."

Quoted from the Pima County Dept. of Environmental Quality - Tucson, Arizona website.

"My anemometer is located only 9 feet off the ground and between windbreaks and registered in the 50-60 mph range but neighbors clocked 80-90 mph straightlined winds. It was an unbelievable storm. It reminded me of some hurricane videos I've seen. The roar grew until our house shook. The south side of the barn (far side in this view) was blown off its foundation."


Quote & Photo courtesy of John G. Courmerilh, Bird City (Cheyenne County), KS.  Taken Saturday, 29 May 2004.

Nature and Sources of the Pollutant:
Particulate matter less than 10?m in size (PM10) is a small fraction of the suspension sized material that may cause health problems when inhaled and other environmental problems.  Stringent Federal air quality standards regulate concentrations of PM10 as a health hazard.  Wind erosion has been linked to increased particulate matter emissions from agricultural fields as well as other sources such as sand dunes, unpaved roads, construction and mining sites, dry lake beds, rangelands, and forest lands.

Health and Environmental Effects:In 1987, EPA replaced the earlier Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) air quality standard with a PM-10 standard. The new standard focuses on smaller particles that are likely responsible for adverse health effects because of their ability to reach the lower regions of the respiratory tract. The PM-10 standard includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less (0.0004 inches or one-seventh the width of a human hair). EPA's health-based national air quality standard for PM-10 is 50 ?g/m3 (measured as an annual mean) and 150 ?g/m3 (measured as a daily concentration). Major concerns for human health from exposure to PM-10 include: effects on breathing and respiratory systems, damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma, are especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter. Acidic PM-10 can also damage human-made materials and is a major cause of reduced visibility in many parts of the U.S. New scientific studies suggest that fine particles (smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) may cause serious adverse health effects. As a result, EPA is considering setting a new standard for PM-2.5. In addition, EPA is reviewing whether revisions to the current PM-10 standards are warranted.

For more information visit the US Environmental Protection Agency's website:

For information about the current air quality in your area visit:


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Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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