Massive Asian Sandstorms Threaten Environment, Health

Massive sandstorms in Asia are on the rise and pose a growing threat to the environment and human health, say experts at the United Nations Environment Program. The storms — which generally originate in desert regions of northern China and Mongolia and rage southeastward across the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Hawaii, and even as far as the western seaboard of the U.S. — have been recorded for centuries, but have increased in frequency during the last 50 years thanks to desertification brought about by spreading deforestation. The storms suck up pollutants over China’s heavily industrialized northeast and settle like fog over urban areas, where the combination of high concentrations of dust particles and storm-borne pollutants poses a serious threat to respiratory systems. The problem is difficult to address because it crosses national borders; UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer cites the storms as an example of “the globalization of environmental problems.”