Desert Dust Storms (DDS) refers to the condition created when finer sand particulate matter (PM) from the desert surface is transported over a long distance. DDS pose a major risk to populations residing in affected areas, such as in Mediterranean countries belonging to the global dust belt, extending from West Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Exposure to DDS PM leads to increased hospital admissions and even higher mortality rates. Patients also suffer symptomatic exacerbations of pre-existing conditions, require much medication and lose their sense of well-being, often with days off work or school. Finally, DDS PM exposure is associated with sub-clinical effects on the general population, from mild discomfort, eye and skin irritation to substantial impacts on biological processes and quality of life. Climate change has led to the higher exposure of southern EU populations to DDS PM.
The LIFE-MEDEA project’s main goal is to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of an adaptation strategy to DDS, and to better inform EU policy-making by providing a field-based evidence for the adoption of a strategic plan for mitigating the health effects of DDS events in south-east Europe. The specific aims of the project are to: Provide evidence for the development of a strategic plan for mitigating the impact of DDS events through exposure reduction; Design easy-to-implement and sustainable exposure-reduction recommendations to follow during DDS; Demonstrate the effectiveness of recommendations for reducing exposure to DDS and related adverse impacts on the health of adults with atrial fibrillation and children with asthma; Demonstrate the feasibility of applying models for early forecasting of DDS events and timely notification of the public, targeting susceptible individuals; Transfer efficiently the results in Cyprus, Crete and Israel, and network with target bodies in other DDS-exposed regions in south east Europe; and Ensure continuation of the project’s work after its completion.
From a policy point of view, the project’s actions combined with the e-platform will enhance informed decision-making along with the population’s resilience, preparedness and capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change, in line with the EU adaptation strategy.
Expected results: Adoption of a strategic national plan by the competent authorities (CyMET and DLI) in at least one of the participating countries for adaptation to increasing DDS events; A set of evidence-based recommendations for reducing outdoor DDS exposure by 30% and indoor DDS exposure by at least 50%; A sustainable bidirectional web-based platform that communicates DDS forecast information and exposure-reduction recommendations in a timely manner to susceptible citizens and the general population; A set of highly accurate air quality models that predict DDS events three days ahead in the Eastern Mediterranean basin; Data demonstrating the effectiveness of the developed recommendations to reduce outdoor and indoor exposure to DDS pollution, especially among vulnerable populations; Quantification of vulnerability of population/patient groups and evidence-based estimates demonstrating which intervention/recommendations work best in mitigating adverse health effects in children with asthma and adults in south east Europe; Multiple dissemination activities such as meetings, workshops, open fair events and conferences for the scientific community, stakeholders and citizens in Cyprus, Crete and Israel; and A series of tools (a TV documentary on DDS phenomenon, a web page, notice boards) for networking with citizens and stakeholders in the three participating regions and other DDS-exposed regions in south east Europe.