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LifestyleHealth and Leisure
Avoid this season's uninvited guest: Yellow sandDr. Jay discusses health-related problems surrounding regional dust storms
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승인 2011.03.26  18:34:14
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It’s the arrival of spring and after a long and especially cold winter, I can’t be happier to greet this magnificent weather, with the cool breeze blowing through my hair and the warm crisp sunlight...

Wait. It was like that, a long time ago. Nowadays we have a thing called “hwangsa” (황사).

It’s dubbed “the uninvited guest” in the spring and officially named the “yellow sand,” or “Asian dust.” Whatever the name, it is something that has been coming to Korea (and Jeju, although to a lesser extent) ever since, well ... when I was a little kid (that’s like ages ago).

It is said that the change of weather leading to the melting of ground, sand, and dust from the western parts of Asia (especially China) is the reason for this ongoing phenomenon. Global warming leads to more dry land and deserts, making more sand exposed to wind. Also, the growing industrialization of our neighboring country to the west is also adding to the problem.

The (minimal) end-result of this phenomenon is a brownish, yellowish smog-like atmosphere which makes it difficult to see Mt. Halla and many of the oreum (parasitic volcanic cones) in Jeju.

But the major and most disturbing results are that it makes people ill.

The (extremely) small sand particles of around 1-10㎛ (that’s like 1/1000 of a millimeter), can be problematic when drawn into the respiratory system, especially if you have asthma, or if your eyes or nose experience allergic reactions. Not only that, but due to the great amount of particles saturated in the air, it can effect relatively healthy geriatric people or those of the infantile population with weaker respiratory function.

On the news, during the weather section, the weatherman usually points out the amount of dust from March till May, when it is most prominent. If it gets to be more severe, the main news anchor will say so as this is an important news item. In these instances of greater sand and dust particle pollution, it maybe wise to:

a. Refrain from going out, and getting covered in dust. If you do have to go out, wear protective gear, like a mask or glasses.

b. After returning home, wash your hands thoroughly. When staying indoors, try shutting the doors and windows so the outside sand does not come in.

c. Wash food, fruits, and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

To my great surprise last year, I saw my car change color — from white to a grey-ish yellow — following such a storm. It was a greater surprise the year before to see my car turn from black to grey-ish white. On the car, you can just wipe it off. However, I don’t. The cleanliness will last for only about 3 minutes until the next layer of dust particles piles up.

Imagine the dust particles getting through to your lungs, and doing the same. So in the event of yellow dust, play it safe.

▲ Doctor Jay graduated from Korea University medical school and trained at the Korea University Medical School Hospital. He is currently chief executive of Everspring Hospital in Jeju. If you have any questions concerning health matters, ask Dr. Jay at
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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