If you live in the San Antonio, Texas area and have never traveled to Africa, you can still enjoy the sights of North Africa right outside your back door.
In the week of August 3, 2013 when San Antonians look out their windows they will not see lions, tigers, bears or wildebeests, but an orangish haze filtering over the Alamo City. No, the haze blocking the view of San Antonio’s majestic skyline and affecting the air quality and respiratory systems of many San Antonians is not due to man-made, environmental pollutants, but is caused by African Dust, also known as Red Dust. This natural phenomenon has been happening for many years, but is becoming more severe with the changing climate conditions North Africa is experiencing.
Every year, up to 60 to 200 million tons of African dust is carried 15,000 feet in the atmosphere off the Saharan Desert and travels across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean with its route passing over North America. The Caribbean is the first area to experience the dust effects, which occurs during North American’s winter season. Summertime is when the dust frequents North America. And this year, San Antonio will not be omitted from this dust cloud’s right of passage.
In 1970, there has been an increase in the size and volume of dust coming out of Africa’s Saharan Desert. This is due to the onset of drought North Africa is experiencing along with Africa’s problems of overgrazing the land and the drying up of Lake Chad. Twenty-two years of surveying the dust via satellite over the Atlantic confirms very high dust loads have been detected over the Saharan in the mid-1980’s, and the dust load has continued to climb over the decades.
Understand that Red Dust does not travel alone, but is accompanied by small amounts of less desirable substances, including pesticides, mercury and mold spores. Mold spores are of more concern to San Antonians who have respiratory issues such as allergies, asthma, emphysema, and C.O.P.D. The St. Petersburg Times reports that the number of Americans with asthma has increased 154% which is synonymous with the twenty-two year satellite survey results stated above.
What can San Antonians do to help decrease the effects the dust has on their respiratory systems? It is recommended, especially for the elderly, to stay out of doors, or if needing to go outside wear a N-95 respirator or face mask. There is also NasaFlo Neti Pot that is the new talk of the town. The devices, which look much like a plastic teapot, can be purchased over the counter in any local pharmacy. The nifty little devices contain a nasal saline solution that is used to clean out the tiny hairs in your sinus cavity, helping remove the dust irritants.
Not to worry, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality states that this year they expect only moderate levels of African Dust to enter into San Antonio’s atmosphere with minimal health concerns. The African Dust should be cleared out by Tuesday.
So whether you take the safe road of staying inside during the mid-summer evenings or foraging outside with family and friends, the African Dust can be beneficial to San Antonians for providing some exceptionally spectacular sunsets this summer.
Written By: Lisa Graziano