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Hazards from airborne silicate microparticles

Hazards from airborne silicate microparticles

Long-term exposure to high concentrations of airborne dust and other fine silicate particles is known to cause detrimental health effects, such as pneumoconiosis (Desert Lung Syndrome). There is a high occurrence of pneumoconiosis in the population living in the Indus Valley near Leh, Ladakh, which receives frequent dust storms. In addition, the people here base their lives around agriculture and most tasks are still carried out through manual labour. The high altitude of the valley (> 3500 m) means that it is persistently dry so dust emission is high. Communities work together during spring months to clear irrigation channels and work manure into their fields. In doing so, they are exposed to chronically high dust levels.

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Monitoring personal dust exposure during agricultural activities, Leh valley, Ladakh

Research Associate Dr Adam Durant recently participated in a field study led by Claire Horwell (University of Durham) investigating the health effects from exposure to mineral dust aerosol on the local population in and around Leh, Ladakh. Dr Durant worked closely with David Damby, a graduate student at Durham, to collect personal exposure data for villagers working in fields and their homes, and cascade impactor aerosol samples for laboratory analysis to determine the fraction of crystalline silica in the respirable particle size fraction. Follow-up laboratory analysis is currently underway. Dr Durant has also been involved with the activities of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN) since its inception in 2003, and more recently acted in an advisory capacity in an expert panel meeting of the UK Natural Mineral Particle and Health Network.

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Installing monitoring instruments in a local home to measure dust particle concentrations and collect aerosol samples, Leh valley, Ladakh