Weather service predicting dust storm

The New Mexico Environment Department issued an alert to New Mexicans on Tuesday about the health risks associated with dust storms. The alert was issued in time for a dust storms forecasted across the state today.

The weather service forecast predicts wind gusts up to 50 mph today. A cold front is expected to arrive in the afternoon or evening.

"Inhaling dust can cause a number of serious health problems and can make some health problems worse," the alert states. "The best precaution to take during a dust storm is to simply avoid going outside."

If you must go outside in a dust storm, the NMED alert suggests limiting exposure and wearing a covering over your mouth and nose.

According to the alert, health problems associated with dust storms, include irritated lungs, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, wheezing, coughing, runny nose, and chronic breathing and lung problems.

Those who are at the highest risk of having health complications due to dust storms include Infants, children, teens, the elderly, people with respiratory conditions, people, with heart or lung disease, and pregnant woman.

Clovis Mayor and pharmacist David Lansford said although he sees a lot of people with respiratory problems come through his pharmacy, he does not know how much of it is related to dust. Lansford said he doesn't think the rate of asthma in Clovis is higher than other places.

"It's a fact of nature here," Lansford said about the frequent dust storms, "Many area farmers are doing the best they can do to prevent blowing on their property. They really want to minimize erosion."

Lansford said he is also confident that area farmers do their best to keep chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides out of the air when there are high winds.

"I know dozens if not hundreds of farmers. They know when to put down chemicals. They look at the five-day forecast, and implement best practices."

Another problem with dust storms is they increase the amount of PM 10, which is particulate matter under 10 microns, in the air. According Particulate Air Pollution, at NMED document, these tiny dust particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs and get past the lungs' natural defenses. High levels of PM 10 in the lungs can cause increased asthma attacks, aggravate or cause bronchitis, and decrease the body's ability to fight infections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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