Air quality in southern Europe, mainly in Spain, was affected at the beginning of the week by the large transport of dust from the Sahara that began at the weekend, the European Copernicus Observatory announced today.

“This dust is having an impact on air quality across most of the western Mediterranean, particularly in Spain where high levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) are forecast across most of the country, with a peak in the region today, July 11,” according to the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS).

These predictions also concern “certain parts of Italy and southern France”.

“In the most affected areas, PM10 will exceed the average 24-hour exposure limit of 50 µg/m3 (average annual value) set for the European Union for this type of pollutants,” explains the Copernicus observatory.

“The transport of dust to Spain coincides with a heat wave hitting the country, both phenomena are enhanced by warm air coming from the Sahara,” the observatory explains.

In addition to an orange or red tint to the sky, these dusts coming from sandstorms in North Africa can affect human health, worsening respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and energy production, reducing the performance of solar panels, the Copernicus service reminds.

This sand haze is however less toxic than the ultra-fine particles from road traffic, wood heating, coal or fires.

Sandstorms and dust mainly harm residents of arid or semi-arid countries in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, central Asia and China, posing a “serious threat to health,” according to the World Meteorological Organization.