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Associations Between Dust Storms and Intensive Care Unit Admissions in the United States, 2000-2015
Rublee, C., C. Sorensen, J. Lemery, Tim Wade, E. Sams, E. Hilborn, AND J. Crooks. Associations Between Dust Storms and Intensive Care Unit Admissions in the United States, 2000-2015. GeoHealth. American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 4(B):e2020GH000260, (2020). https://doi.org/10.1029/2020gh000260
Persistent droughts among arid regions have resulted in an increase in dust storms in the western United States. Although the adverse health effects associated with dust storms have been studied in some other regions of the world, dust storm associated health effects among residents of the United States (US) are relatively uncharacterized. We retrospectively evaluate hospital admissions that require intensive care and that are temporally and spatially associated with US dust storms and find significant increases in total admissions on the day of the storm, and an increase in admissions associated with respiratory illness up to the fifth day after the storm. These are important findings as the public health burden of dust-associated illness is expected to increase as arid conditions persist in the western US.
Anthropogenic climate change is influencing the incidence of dust storms and associated human exposure to coarse particulate matter (PM2.5-10) in the United States (US). Studies have found adverse health consequences related to dust exposure. These consequences include respiratory disease exacerbations and premature mortality, resulting in increased health care utilization. However, the impact of dust storms on critical care demand has not been studied in the US. We seek to quantify the relationship between dust storms and surges in critical care demand by investigating the association between dust storms and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions at nearby hospitals from 2000 to 2015. ICU data were acquired from Premier, Inc. and encompass 15-20% of all ICU admissions in the US. Dust storm, meteorology, and air pollutant data were downloaded from the US National Weather Service, the US National Climatic Data Center, and the US Environmental Protection Agency websites, respectively. Associations between ICU admission and dust storms, controlling for temperature, dew point temperature, ambient PM2.5 and ozone, as well as seasonally varying confounders, were estimated using a distributed lag conditional Poisson model with over-dispersion. We found a 4.8% (95% CI: 0.4, 9.4; p=0.033) increase in total ICU admissions on the day of the dust storm (lag 0) and a 9.2% (95% CI: 1.8, 17.0; p=0.013) and 7.5% (95% CI: 0.3, 15.2; p=0.040) increase in respiratory admissions at lags 0 and 5. North American dust storms are associated with increases in same day and lagged demand for critical care services at nearby hospitals. Plain Language Summary Human influences to climate change are affecting dust storm occurrences and human exposure to dust particles in the United States (US). Studies worldwide have found negative health consequences related to dust exposure resulting in increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations. This study seeks to better understand the relationship between dust storms and critical care demand in hospitals by investigating the association between dust storms and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. ICU data were acquired and encompass 15-20% of US ICU admissions. Associations between ICU admissions and dust storms, controlling for multiple variables, were estimated. We found an increase in total ICU and respiratory admissions on the day of the dust storm as well as respiratory admissions five days later. This study is the first national-scale study of dust storms and critical care demand in the US. Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence showing that dust exposure affects health and health care utilization, especially for life-threatening respiratory admissions. These results suggest that public health prevention and healthcare system readiness are necessary to buffer potential negative impacts to patients, especially those most sensitive to dust exposure, and health care systems resulting from surges in demand for critical care services