Dust is a common air pollutant that reduces air quality. It is mostly soil particles that get into the air. Dust can come from soil through dust storms, construction sites, unpaved roads and other sources.
Dust particles can be different sizes. Larger particles, called ‘coarse’ dust, generally can’t enter the lungs. Smaller particles, or ‘fine’ dust, are easier to breathe in and more likely to reach the lungs. This dust is more likely to impact human health. It's included in the particles that make up PM2.5 particles.
How airborne dust can impact your health
Most airborne dust is coarse and doesn’t pose a serious risk to human health if breathed in. However, some community members and people with existing health issues may be at risk from breathing in airborne dust. This includes:
- people with asthma, emphysema or bronchitis
- people with heart disease
- babies and young children
- older people.
Anyone that airborne dust impacts may experience:
- allergic reactions and asthma attacks
- serious problems breathing.
Long-term exposure to dust can increase people's chances of getting heart or lung diseases.
Airborne dust and health effects (PDF; 69KB) has more information about airborne dust and your health.
How to stay safe from dust
- Stay indoors, with windows and doors closed.
- Even when you must go outside, spend as little time outdoors as possible.
- Avoid high impact exercise, especially if you have asthma or another respiratory (breathing related) condition.
- Use air conditioners if possible and safe. Make sure to clean filters often.
- When driving, pull over when you can’t see more than 100 metres in front of you. Turn your vehicle’s air intake to ‘recirculate’. This means air won’t come in from outside.
- Dust can impact water in tanks. People with water tanks should install a ‘first-flush diverter’.
People who have asthma or other breathing related conditions should follow their treatment plans if these symptoms occur:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain.
People worried about their symptoms should contact their doctor or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 606 024.
Anyone who experiences symptoms they believe may be due to airborne dust should also seek medical advice.
More information about airborne dust
Find out more about other public health issues related to pollution and waste
Reviewed 16 March 2021