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There is a newly mounting body of evidence of the health effects to exposure from long-range transported particulate matter (PM) from the Sahara regions in areas such as southern Europe and the Caribbean. In these areas, during episodes of ‘Saharan winds,’ increased total mortality,1 and respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalisations2–5 have been associated with increased PM levels. The paper from Zauli et al in this issue of OEM6 further adds to this evidence (see page 446), suggesting also an increase in respiratory mortality for older people on those days. But, within the current and future public health and policy agenda, what is the relevance of this thin and not yet fully consistent new literature?
First, the area contributes to the growing field of research into the source-specific effects of air pollution as a highly policy-relevant approach. Investigating the health effects of single pollutants or specific size-fractions of particles in disjunction with sources has proved inconclusive in identifying a main …