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What do we know about effects of desert dust on air quality and human health in West Africa compared to other regions?


This study aims to compare, on the one hand, the geographical distribution of the desert dust source areas, their contribution to quantities emitted into the atmosphere, the trajectories and the quantities deposited, with on the other hand the areas of research interest focused on the desert dust impacts on air quality and/or human health. Based on a systematic review of the literature using the ISI Web of Knowledge database, we found 231 articles published over the last decade on the desert dust impacts on air quality. Of these, 48% concerned Asian dust and 39% Saharan dust, with the remaining 13% divided between the other dust source areas. However, only one of these studies addressed the worsening air pollution in West Africa, even though it is very close to the Sahara, the greatest contributor to the global dust budget. Moreover, there have been very few studies (41) looking at the direct links between desert dust and human health; in this context too, no interest has been shown in West Africa. Yet this region is also among the areas in which morbidity rates have been noted to be far higher than those found in other regions of the world, and where respiratory infections alone account for more than 20% of the causes of infant mortality. This survey highlights a clear imbalance between those areas most exposed to dust and the most studied areas in terms of dust impacts. Given these findings and the often alarming results published about other regions of the world, we advocate a revival of interest in research on West Africa in order to achieve a better understanding of the desert dust impacts on air quality and health among the populations of this region.