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Sentinels of Health: Threats from Dust and Air

“Life on the planet begins with healthy air to breathe.”

Dust storms that span the size of a continent can sweep across the globe in less than a few days, leaving microbes, allergens, and pollutants in their wake. Animals, with their heightened sensitivities, can alert us to air-borne pollutants that may cause human health problems.

USGS scientists have detected a disease in Caribbean coral that signals the presence of Aspergillus, a fungus that also causes respiratory (breathing) problems in humans. The same fungus has been found in air samples taken by USGS scientists from transoceanic dust storms that pass over coral reefs.

Amphibians, such as frogs and toads, can be good sentinels of air quality, because they breathe through their skin and live at the air-water interface. USGS scientists are studying the effects of environmental pollutants, air-borne disease, and other contaminants on frogs at monitoring sites across the nation.

Air-borne particles that result from energy exploration may also affect us. USGS scientists study these impacts to help decisionmakers assess the health implications for humans and the ecosystems in which we all live.

Links to USGS Sentinel Research Projects

More Information

Human Health Home
GeoHeatlh Newsletter

Air, Dust, and Soil contaminants and Pathogens
Drinking Water Contaminants
Consumption of Bioaccumulative Contaminants
Vector Borne and Zoonotic (animal to human) Disease
Contact With Recreational Waters
Animal Sentinels of Human Health

Places with Health Studies
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URL: http://health.usgs.gov/sentinels/dust_and_air.html
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Page Last Modified: 05-May-2016@11:42