Washington State Department of Ecology - May 3, 2013

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Take precautions – dust season is here

OLYMPIA – It’s dust storm season when wind speeds pick up and the air can turn gritty with dirt particles from dry farming areas, construction sites, and unpaved roads.

When inhaled, dust particles settle deeply into lungs and can irritate or damage sensitive tissues in the respiratory system. People with respiratory illnesses, the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone engaged in strenuous physical activity outdoors are most at risk.

After a windstorm, fine dust remains suspended in the air or is kicked up by vehicles. In some low-lying areas where the air is stagnant, particles may settle out of the air slowly. Sensitive people who want to prepare for dust storms should pay attention to local weather forecasts and check with their doctors.

Drive more slowly to reduce airborne dust and postpone projects at home that stir up dust when conditions are dusty.

Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family during a dust storm:

Stay indoors as much as possible. Wear a mask designed to block small particles. Watch for sudden changes in visibility while driving. Avoid driving during windy conditions when windblown dust is likely. Turn on headlights as a safety precaution.

Construction project managers can take a variety of steps to control dust stirred up at work sites. Control measures include:

Clearing no more land than necessary. Working in phases to minimize the amount of exposed land area. Using a commercial dust suppressant to replace or reduce the use of water. Covering bare ground with gravel. Curtailing activities on windy days.

You can find more information on Ecology’s updated dust web page.

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Media Contacts:

Joye Redfield-Wilder; Central Regional Office, 509-575-2610; 509-961-6277; jred461@ecy.wa.gov

 Brook Beeler; Eastern Regional Office, 509-329-3478; brook.beeler@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Ecology’s outdoor dust web page (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/other/Windblown_dust_information.htm)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)