Outdoor dust management

We monitor the air for dust in some areas of Washington. Monitors track air quality to measure whether areas meet national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), which are set by EPA. Our atmospheric scientists also monitor weather conditions to identify potential dangerous and unhealthy dust storms. By doing this, we can provide advance warning to people in affected areas.

Report cover for hte Hight Wind Fugitive Dust Mitigation Plan document.

The Wallula Maintenance Area (WMA) is highly susceptible to windblown dust due to its semi-arid nature and very fine soil.

High winds from thunderstorms can overwhelm erosion control measures on agricultural lands and cause PM10 levels to exceed national ambient air quality standards, known as an "exceptional event."

Due to the number and frequency of exceptional events in the area, we are required by law to prepare this five year mitigation plan for the WMA.

If more than three exceptional events occur within a three year period the plan will be reviewed more often.

Outdoor dust storms can be very unhealthy. Ecology and farmers have been working to reduce dust from fields.

During a dust storm, massive amounts of soil and dust are suspended in air that can harm your health, impact your breathing, and put your safety at risk. Dust storms are an immediate concern for travelers due to limited visibility .

Dust storms primarily occur in Central and Eastern Washington. They can happen during any season, but mostly occur in the summer and fall. Read our blog for more on dust storms.

Health effects

Dust is composed of particles suspended in the air. While larger dust particles may sting and irritate your eyes, smaller particles of dust are of greater concern to people's health because they can lodge deep into your lungs.

In dust storms, particles of all sizes get picked up and blown away, causing particulate matter pollution. The smallest particles, known as PM10 and PM2.5, are too small to be filtered out by your nose and your body's other natural defense systems. This fine dust is inhaled deep into your lungs where it can cause increased problems with:

  • Lung irritation
  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Heart disease
  • Allergic reactions

Breathing too much dust is especially harmful to:

  • Infants, children, teens, the elderly, and pregnant women
  • People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or other respiratory conditions
  • People with heart disease
  • Healthy adults working or exercising outdoors

Where they occur Dust monitoring Reports & public comments
Get dust storm alerts What you can do Preventing dust storms