Protecting Your Home From Dust Storms
Dust storms are a common phenomenon in Qatar and they can happen at any time. From soft to heavy and severe, dust storms have a significant impact on our health—especially for children, the elderly and people with asthma—so it is important to be prepared.
Short-term exposure to very high concentrations of dust and particles during a sandstorm can be harmful but long-term exposure to high concentrations might be even worse. So don’t wait for a sandstorm to take action to reduce the concentration of particles inside your homes.
Short-term exposure is linked to increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits for respiratory effects like asthma attacks, as well as increased respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. In addition, short-term PM2.5 exposures are linked to reduced lung function, especially in children and people with lung diseases, such as asthma.
Long-term exposure is linked to reduced lung development as well as the development of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, in children. Some studies also suggest that long-term PM2.5 exposures may be linked to cancer and to harmful developmental and reproductive effects, such as infant mortality and low birth weight. (From the US Environmental Protection Agency.)
There are some good practices and recommendations that will help a lot during a sandstorm. We highly recommend to apply these as a routine, since they will definitely protect you against the health effects of breathing small particles and dust in a daily basis.
1. Seal your home
Check the seals around doors and windows. Sun, sand and heat are tough on rubber and seals, so make sure that they are in good condition. The frequency in which you need to replace the seals depends in every case so make sure to check the status at least once a year.
2. Provide your house with high-quality HEPA air purifiers
High-quality air purifiers with true HEPA filters have been proven to reduce household air particulate by 99.97%. Look for a high-quality HEPA (high-efficiency for PM2.5) air purifier and make sure to select a purifier appropriate to the size of the room, considering a minimum of five air changes per hour. Most units calculate the room capacity just considering 2.7 air changes per hour which is insufficient for an environment like Qatar. Check out Q-Air Global's high-quality air purifiers here.
3. Close all doors, windows and vents
Qatar has a very dusty environment so although some ventilation is needed, be aware that open doors will increase the concentration of particles indoors dramatically so keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. During a storm, using plastic and packing tape to cover window vents will help prevent the amount of dust that sneaks into your house.
4. Manage your AC system
When your house is conditioned by split units (wall-mounted units) you can either turn them on or off as your preference, but don’t use them to clean the air since the efficiency of their filters is very poor and won´t give you any help. If you have a central air installation, make sure that the fresh air intake of the system is closed during dust storms to avoid sand and particles coming in through the system.
5. Stock up
Just like any emergency preparedness plan, it’s important to make sure your home is well-stocked with water, first aid supplies and medicine—especially any asthma medication if someone in your family is prone to asthma.
Iñigo Satrustegui has been living in Qatar since 2012 with his wife and three children. He is an indoor air quality certified inspector and the managing director of Quality Air Global. Check out their line of high-efficiency air purifiers at qualityairglobal.com.