Herminia Palacio, MD, M.P.H.

Executive Director

Public Health & Environmental Services

2223 West Loop South

Houston, Texas 77027

Phone: (713) 439-6000

Fax: (713) 439-6080



July 16, 2003






                                                                                                            Contact:             Rita Obey




Saharan Dust Approaches Texas


Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services is issuing an “Air Quality Watch/Health Alert.”  HCPHES issues an “Air Quality Watch/Health Alert” when it appears that there is the likelihood that air pollutants may reach levels that can have an adverse impact on public health in Harris County.


This “Air Quality Watch/Health Alert” is prompted by a large cloud of Saharan Dust that is rapidly moving toward Texas.  The Saharan Dust is expected to arrive in south Texas early Thursday morning and will spread to the rest of the state by late Thursday.  It will remain in Texas through Friday, and possibly Saturday.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality indicated that the dust “will likely produce widespread readings in the mid to high end of the “Moderate” range…”  Most people are not expected to experience any health effects; however, those who are sensitive to dust may be affected.  Dust is made up of coarse particles that can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma.


To limit your exposure to adverse health effects, keep doors and windows closed.  If cooling is needed, turn air-conditioning to re-circulate mode in your home and car.  The Environmental Protection Agency expects the long-term risk from these short-term exposures to be low.


Should the dust reach the Orange Level or higher in Harris County, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services will issue another news release.