UAE authorities warn asthma patients to stay indoors

UAE dust storm causing 'hazardous' air quality, according to live statistics from The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi air quality monitoring system
UAE authorities warn asthma patients to stay indoors
The heavy dust wind began on Sunday and is expected to last until the end of the week, according National Center of Meteorology (NCM), with conditions expected to clear by the weekend.
By Jeremy Lawrence
Wed 01 Aug 2018 08:43 AM

Dubai Municipality has warned asthma patients and those who suffer from respiratory diseases to stay indoors amid ongoing weather conditions.

The heavy dust wind began on Sunday and is expected to last until the end of the week, according National Center of Meteorology (NCM), with conditions expected to clear by the weekend. 

The low visibility and a significant rise in temperature has also prompted the Marine and Geodetic Survey Section of the Survey Department of Dubai Municipality to warn all drivers to take extra precautions on the roads. It said the horizontal vision will be less than 3,000 metres during this time.

Elevated levels

The warnings come as air quality in the UAE this week far exceeds hazardous levels according to live statistics from The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi air quality monitoring system.

According to its Air Quality Index [AQI] the ‘hazardous’ range is 300-500. Al Tawia station in Al Ain was yesterday showing almost twice that amount. It saw an average PM10 [particulate matter] AQI [air quality index] reading over the last 24 hours of 902.

Al Maraq station in Abu Dhabi reached 497.

The UAE has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards to protect public health. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is calculated according to the US EPA AQI classifications.

The air quality website - www.adairquality.ae - states: “AQI values below 100 are generally expected to be satisfactory. When the values are above 100, air quality is considered, initially, to be unhealthy for specific sensitive groups and subsequently unhealthy for everyone as the values increase.”

The average figure for the UAE was much lower at 291 according to live data from the Real-time Air Quality Index website. This still falls in the ‘Very Unhealthy’ category.

Meanwhile, Breezometer.com, a commercial air quality information website, rated Dubai at 25, Abu Dhabi at 22 and Al Ain at 17. The ratings are out of 100 and the lower the score the more polluted the city.

By comparison, that would place it above Delhi (12) today but below Beijing (37) and Bangkok at 51.

Dubai officials said the weather is a result of Indian low pressure monsoon, which was concentrated in the south Eastern parts of the UAE near to Arabian Sea leading to the movement of south-easterly wind blowing dust over the region and a significant increase in temperature.

Ratings controversy

These readings have long been the subject of much debate, however, as one of the biggest contributors of particulate matter in the region is dust made of sand, which UAE officials have said skews the data.

Dust is not thought to be as hazardous as man-made pollutants, which can be carcinogenic, though studies have found that wind-generated dust does lead to higher hospital-admission rates for respiratory illnesses.

The air quality app Air Matters was yesterday showing a PM10 reading of 194, classifying the pollution level as ‘very high’.

According to Air Matters, "Everyone should reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat. Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often."

Dubai Municipality last year launched an AED500 million ($136m) Air Quality Strategy for 2017-2021.

The strategy is aimed at establishing Dubai as one of the world’s cities with the best air quality by 2021, according to Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality.

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