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Yellow Dust Storm of DEATH!

March 19, 2014

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Ah yes. It’s that time of year. Winter is over. Spring is just around the corner. Hope is on the horizon. The cold clenching death of Winter has almost passed. But not yet. While Winter is in its last death throws, it makes sure to fart out its last act of spite: Yellow Dust season.

There’s a lot to say about Yellow Dust and we didn’t talk about it all, simply because it’s pretty difficult for us to talk now. Hot damn it did a number on us yesterday. We don’t usually wear face masks out. I feel really claustrophobic in those face masks. And, hell, did you ever burp in one of those? It’s like hotboxing yourself in nasty gastric fumes. Not fun. But we’ll make ourselves wear them this time of year when the Yellow Dust levels get too high.

A few interesting things we read about Yellow Dust: supposedly it’s a lot worse because of deforestation: the sands would be blocked a bit if there were trees in the path of the wind that carries the dust. South Korea supposedly gave China a bunch of trees to plant to try to help inhibit the Yellow Dust, but China decided to plant them by highways instead, because WHUTCHU GONNA DO TO STOP US? No, I’m sure there’s a better reason for that. Right? There’s gotta be. Guise?

One thing we want to mention, if it wasn’t clear enough in our fumbling around with the topic, is that we’re not scientists and we don’t know the official terms for any of this. I know some people use a different unit of measurement, like PMs, and they measure the size of the particles or something. I don’t know. We use the UUUU-gram measurement, and we’ve found that the crappiness we feel directly corresponds with the higher the u number measurement. So, if you’re in Seoul and want to keep up to date with the air quality, you can follow the Yellow Dust Robot, or you can use this site if you’re not a Twitter user. Soo Zee just uses Naver for her info.

Side note: I remember when we first arrived in Norway when we started our European Tour last year. We flew right from Korea to England, but we didn’t leave Heathrow Airport. From there we caught our plane to Norway. When we got out of the airport in Norway, we freaked out when we smelled how clean the air was there. I was like a dog in a car sticking his head out the window sniffing everything like mad. It was so delicious. The difference is clearly perceptible. For those of you living in countries with clean air, don’t take it for granted. It’s lovely. I wish I could breathe in air like that regularly. I’m actually a bit worried about what the long term effects are of being in a place of poor air quality. How many years of our lives are we tossing away?

So, that’s it for our ramblings about Yellow Dust. Let us know if you’re in the area and you experience it, or if you know anything else about it.

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Yellow Dust Storm of DEATH!

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  1. Oh dear, I’m getting really worried now about my asthma. I’m from Norway, and sometimes I even struggle here with pollution. Perhaps I can find a mask already in London! If not, I’ll have to look for them at the airport in Seoul, I’m landing on Monday. Does anyone know if they sell masks at the airport?

    3 years ago
  2. Sindang-dong also has the best ddeokbokki.

    3 years ago
  3. It’s the last night of Fallas here in Valencia, Spain and they’re about to light 3 story high statues made of styrofoam on fire when it gets dark, I’ve been looking for face masks all weekend. And on top of that there have been fireworks going off non-stop, a bit scared to see what air quality is going to be like tomorrow! It’s a bit of a shame because the statues are worked on all year and are the coolest looking things ever! This is a before and after :)

    3 years ago
    • It’s suppose to a symbol for burning away the problems of the last year, cathartic in a way for the residents here, this is what the city looked like two nights ago, it was amazing!

      3 years ago
      • Nev

        Wow, that’s some pollution that’s been pumped into your (and our) atmosphere… :/

        3 years ago
      • What brought you to Valencia? Just Fallas, did you live here? I’m doing my last semester at Berklee Valencia at the Palau de les Arts, SO BEAUTIFUL HERE!

        3 years ago
  4. I was in Switzerland for some snowboarding two weeks ago, and all the snow was yellow… My snowboard teacher tried to convince me that it was caused by the cows that graze there in the summer and pee a lot. Yeah right, anyways, when he realized that I wasn’t buying that crap (or pee in this case) he told me it was because of Sahara sand.
    But it is in very low levels and not very bad. Nothing like the pics I see around here now :)

    3 years ago
  5. I live in Finland and we have really clean air. Generally I take it for granted (you can’t remember to be grateful for the same thing every day right?) but reading these comments does make me appreciate it more. I’ve been to Shanghai once and I did notice the difference in the air but it wasn’t very bad at that time of the year. Last autumn we had the people we visited in Shanghai visit us in return and they said that the air is really nice to breathe here. I wish people would pay more attention to bad air quality caused by pollution and the way it affects the environment and people’s health.

    3 years ago
  6. There’s nothing like that here in N. Ireland. My bf is from China and he said the number one thing students from China like about this country is that our air is so clean :D Tbh I didn’t notice the pollution in China at all and I was there for 5 weeks (but then again I wasn’t in Beijing)

    I was, however, in London later that year. I was there for two days. TWO DAYS, and the pollution made the inside of my nose go black, it was so disgusting -.- But N.Ireland is a trouble free country pretty much when it comes to weather, gale force wind is the worst we have to deal with haha.

    3 years ago
  7. In Arizona we get haboobs… like not fun dust storms. Think DUST BOWL! No not that bad but still sucky.

    3 years ago
  8. aaawww The Mummy!! god i have NO idea how many times i watched that movie!! especially when i was a kid!!

    i used to think why on earth do so many people in Japan and SK wear face masks but i’m sure you guys have talked about this before and that’s how i knew about yellow dust!

    3 years ago
  9. No yellow dust storm of death in France. We have a lovely blue sky with some clouds and some sunbeams.
    But most of the time during the beginning of spring, we have a few pollution in the air, like now by example. But no storm or sand. The government just ask us to drive less and even in Paris, they make the cars drive one day out of two (like cars with and odd number at the end of their number plate can drive on odd days, and vice versa).

    Hope it will get better for you ! *kicks the yellow dust ass*

    3 years ago
  10. In my city there´s a lot of contamination, and being asthmatic sucks a lot, like…a lot. There´s also sandstorms from time to time because we are a desert city.

    3 years ago
  11. It just rains in the UK. Nothing else just rain. And I think the winter that we’ve just had proves how crappy the weather is over here

    3 years ago
  12. Every year in Malaysia, we are well greeted with a nice blanket of haze , full of choking stuffy ashes, courtesy of both foreign illegal forest burning and local bush fires. We have just finished one (hopefully the last one ) as it is starting to rain now. This year was particularly bad as it was also drought season, hence many areas were lacking adequate water supply. So imagine being in a smoking chamber.

    3 years ago
  13. England is just grey. That is it. Nothing happens. Only grey.

    3 years ago
  14. In Hong Kong, we do get weather warnings from the government about air pollution, heat and cold conditions. Often in the summer, it’s always “Extremely Hot” but we go out anyway. Since we have the best weather prediction service in the world (I think!) the government is always giving the public warnings about the weather conditions and what we should do. The Hong Kong Observatory excels in giving us data about impending typhoons, issuing warnings on the TV, radio and internet.

    Also, the air pollution in Beijing isn’t as bad as everyone makes out. I went to an environmental conference debate by the Financial Times last week and one of the debaters, a man from the US who had been living in China for a while, says that Beijing does have blue skies. But as a journalist, he’s not paid to report about blue skies in Beijing – he’s only there to report when the weather gets really bad.

    However, when I once went on a school trip up to Xi’An in China for a week, the pollution there was pretty poor. That was mainly due to the fact that the majority of the city’s power came from coal fired power plants. Even thought it was in the middle of October, there was no cloud cover either and it was pretty hot. Worst of all, the hotel shut down its entire A/C system. So we had to sleep with the window open. Every morning, I’d wake up with a thin sheen of dust on my forehead…

    3 years ago
  15. Well we don’t have anything like that in Portugal, but this year in we had a lot of storms, strong winds in the coast area (where I live) and the news actually said that some days between certain hours we shouldn’t go outside. So that’s different.

    Oh funny story about the quality of hair. I never though about it either until I went on a trip to London, and even though I didn’t feel difference breathing, everytime I blew my nose black stuff came out (gross I know) and my friend had her pores on her face filled with black stuff as well. Me and my brother always joke that if and when we visit china I’d always have to wear a mask because of the pollution, since I already felt it in London.

    3 years ago
  16. I know there’s also like Yellowdust approved mask in Korea, but I don’t know what’s the difference with normal procedure mask that you can buy just about everywhere. It’s the regular mask they use in hospital for about anything. That said, working in an hospital myself, I know some name of higher quality mask (but they also are more uncomfortable to wear), so it might be easier to buy them with the regular name/number of the mask (maybe even get them cheaper on internet). If you’re ever interested, I could search the info for you.

    3 years ago
  17. Sounds like the pollen here. We get unhealthy levels of pollen in the spring to the point where my father was out working in the yard one day and then was bedridden for nearly a week, completely sick and vomiting up pollen because it formed little clouds that he breathed in when he was moving things and sweeping. It’s just so much that the ground is coated, your outdoor furniture is covered, your car is covered and none of it goes away until it rains so you’re constantly kicking up pollen every time you go out.

    3 years ago
  18. how long does it usually last? im going to korea in a week for a graded
    class trip .. i have asthma history.. really hope the yellow dust clears
    up by then >.<

    3 years ago
  19. The thing is people actually don’t get how toxic it can be. We have this picturesque idea of sand storm we see sometimes in historical drama and stuff. But I’ve read somewhere that, among other, yellowdust carries “sulfur (an acid rain component), soot, ash, carbon monoxide, and other toxic pollutants including heavy metals (such as mercury,cadmium, chromium, arsenic, lead, zinc, copper) and other carcinogens, as well as viruses, bacteria, ungi, pesticides, antibiotics, asbestos, herbicides, plastic ingredients, combustion products as well as hormone mimickingphthalates.” [Wikipedia]

    Ouhhhh, Yellodust, you so nasty!

    3 years ago
  20. One time in the recent years while living in Texas I woke up seeing all the cars covered in yellow dust. Like you said, I first thought it was just a really bad day for pollen, but someone told me it was actually yellow dust that traveled from a different country. If I remember correctly it was pretty hard to get off too.

    3 years ago
  21. So it’s ok to breathe inside? Does it not get inside your apt or do you have a filter? I’m extremely curious!

    3 years ago
  22. We have terrible pollution in the Philippines. Lots of people smoke, too. And gahd don’t even get me started on vehicles that blow nothing but black smoke out of their mufflers. It’s seriously ridiculous how so many vehicles still get away with it despite ASBU (Anti Smoke Belching Unit) going around. Not enough ASBU yet because every day, there are just too many vehicles that do this.
    Not to mention the typhoons and earthquakes. Ya’ll may have heard of Haiyan and Ketsana. I didn’t experience Haiyan, and I was lucky to get home in time before Ketsana got really bad.
    But I grew up in a small town in the central US. Very clean. Smells wonderful (unless a skunk’s nearby lol). I can’t wait to go back and experience the lack of pollution this winter. Not to mention the cold weather and hopefully snow!! XD

    3 years ago
    • Is snow that bad? I’ve always found snow cool, but maybe it’s because I live in Sydney where it never ever snows ><

      3 years ago
    • yay for purple Nasties!! but, seriously, this winter SUCKED.

      3 years ago
    • Dear, when you’ve been living in a tropical country for almost 9 years after growing up in a place with 4 seasons, you tend to miss the other seasons. Context ^^
      If I were in your situation, I’d probably be hankering for the heat we have over here, and while I do love it, I can’t help but miss snow after not seeing it for so long~

      3 years ago
      • Interestingly enough, I really miss snuggling in a blanket with the heater at my feet so all the heat is in the blanket. Sooooooo warm and toasteh~ XD But I do hope it’s not so bad cuz even if I did enjoy shoveling snow back then, I don’t think I have the same stamina heh I really just wanna snowboard again and make snowmen and snow angels LOL But yes, I agree that my body is (and always was) well adjusted to heat, but when I went back to the US a couple years ago, it was almost as cold as it is when it snows (not quite, but almost) and I survived the outdoors with 2-3 layers. By the time I came back to the Philippines, I had to re-adjust to the heat since I’d gotten used to the cold already. I’m pretty adaptable, but I only hope for a mild winter with just a few days of snow. That’d be enough for me ^^

        3 years ago
    • Ugh you guys have no idea (although yellow dust sounds just as horrible in its own way o.O). And it’s not just buses, lots of other vehicles do it too, but buses are probably the worst. I’m sure other Filipinos, especially those of us who live in the city, can relate to this~

      3 years ago
    • the motorcyclist behind the bus was like “nah, i’m gonna be fine.”

      3 years ago
  23. I like the theory that the Yellow Dust is getting worse because of deforestation. I live in the desert, we have few trees and forever amounts of dirt. Just the tiniest bit of wind will kick up the dirt but since it’s spring it means we get crazy wind with wind gusts between 30-50+mph. This morning is a prime example, there was so much wind last night that the sky today is lovely shade of brown. On a clear day you can see for miles, but earlier you couldn’t see two blocks ahead of you. It’s a mingling of dirt, pollen and pollution from our city and Mexico. Days like today make someone like me with insane allergies and asthma miserable. Actually, it will hit me worse tomorrow, since it’s had a day to linger around my respiratory system.

    Note to self, don’t go to Korea during Yellow Dust season.

    3 years ago
  24. I remember you guys mentioning the Yellow Dust last year I think! My hubby just moved to Korea as a teacher and there is a 100% chance he has not been wearing a mask on his commute to work! :P I would for sure be wearing a mask every day!

    3 years ago
  25. Kay

    Thank God we don’t have anything as bad as yellow dust but I live in Victoria, Australia and during our bushfire season the entire state can be covered in some pretty heavy smoke. Earlier this year my friend and I traveled into an area which the day before had been wiped by fires (really smart on our part >.<) and the traffic had slowed from 110km to 60km as you could barely see the back of the car in front of you. We closed all our vents and covered our faces but felt so sick by the time we got through which only took ten minutes. A few weeks later the area had evacuation notices issued because the smoke was starting to cause health issues as the area still burned.

    3 years ago
  26. A Korean TV show on KBS called Vitamin (find it on YouTube) made an entire episode about Yellow Dust and the troubles that comes along with it AND what it does to your health! :)
    It sure was extremely informative and finally I got a much better understanding of the health problems and symptoms that you have to watch out for when the season comes along.
    Some of the small things I noticed is that the thickness of the pollution raises between 10am and 2pm. The doctors in the program highly recommend that you leave doors and windows CLOSED during that time and wait until later to “air out” your home or office. Some other areas where pollution thickness is between 200-300 is inside elevators, down inside parking basements and even inside cars (so remember to change the filter often)

    At least here in Denmark we don’t have problems like this. The air is fairly clean (except Co2) and you won’t come across that dusty air unless you are working at a farm fetching all the corn with a large machine xD

    3 years ago
  27. I didn’t realise Japan had yellow dust too! Have you been over there during yellow dust season? How does it compare to Korea? Do they get more or less? x x x

    3 years ago
  28. I lived in Beijing for a year so I was there when the level almost reached 1000, and… I didn’t feel any different? During my whole stay there, everyone else kept complaining about how crappy they felt and wearing masks and avoiding going outdoors when the level was above 300 or so, and I just… didn’t notice it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I stayed in China for a month every summer since I was little and got used to it? Or maybe that’s my secret – I always feel like crap. Ah well! At least I didn’t suffer any more than usual from the pollution of doom!

    3 years ago
    • Ahahaha yes that must be answer, Dothraki Woman warrior does not let puny dust get in way of… feeling healthy!!!

      3 years ago
  29. Well we have winter does that count? You guys know of it anyway. Canadian winter!

    3 years ago
  30. Wait- if dust causes bloody noses than that explains all the bloody noses I see in Korean television shows! Dust-induced nasal sensitivity! I thought it was weird- no one gets bloody noses on American TV unless you’re on a time-traveling island.

    3 years ago
  31. Similar experience from me last year. I moved from the Netherlands to Singapore for work and that’s when I experienced the worst haze ever (see pic for the comparison). It hit the toxic level for one whole day. The haze supposedly came from the forest fire in Indonesia.

    Regarding the face mask, during those period of haze in Singapore, we have been warned that surgical face mask will not help filter the small pollutants (which supposed to be chemical residue… so it’s dangerous). The face mask that helps filter these small pollutants are N95 face mask which has a HEPA filter. This applies to air purifier as well. Only those with HEPA filter will actually clean the air in this situation.

    3 years ago
    • yeah, i live in singapore, we get haze almost every year from the forest fire from indonesia, but last year’s haze was the worst ever. fortunately schools and some companies allowed the students/workers to stay home. even mcdonalds stopped their delivery during that period to protect their delivery staff.

      3 years ago
  32. I’m currently in Japan but haven’t felt any yellow dust going on… Not that anyone has said that we should be prepared for it. As for masks, I personally think they look cool so people, wear them if you need to!! ;D
    And yes clean air! Finland is such a nice place to live if you want some clean air, forests, lakes and grass! Even the cold smell of winter is lovely…

    3 years ago
    • Yeah I noticed that when I was in Seoul for two weeks, I expected the same amount of masked people but there was a huge difference! One time I actually saw an old man in the train who had 3-4 masks (this was in Japan)… Japanese seem to like their masks but still I could find stylish masks easier in Seoul than in Japan. ^^’

      3 years ago
  33. Philippines has Typhoon Season. Storm Surge, too.

    (I Hope You Remember Haiyan.)

    3 years ago
  34. In Mauritania we had locusts AND dust. Not chemical dust though- because no one manufactures things in the Sahara. Just a hot, dirty, nasssty wind called the Harmattan. So,yay natural dust? Whatever, it blocked out the sun, got in my hair, and covered every surface in the house. We didn’t have sciencey forecasting tools for it. But I discovered one. As soon as a I cleaned and shoveled it out of my house- we’d get hit again. I should have taken bribes to never clean my house. The locusts were bad the year before I got there- most transportation in the bush is on the top or back of a car, and driving during locust swarms apparently hurt. We had one swarm approach, but everyone in the village lit smokey fires and the buggers passed on.

    3 years ago
  35. Your description of the symptoms of yellow dust made me wanna puke. BUt that could just be because its 4am and I”m pulling an all nighter for my essays and I ate a lot of junk food before to power myself through….

    3 years ago
  36. Surprisingly I don’t know if you two have ever been to Northern Ontario.. By northern I mean Sudbury Ontario haha. Anyways, we have three huge smelters for the Nickle and copper mines in our city. Somehow in the refining of the ore process, large amounts of sulfuric gases and other wonderful chemical byproducts get released into the air. Now you might be saying to yourself: “how do they allow that in the middle of a city?” Well they have these old fashioned WW2 era sirens that blare when the levels get to high. Basically take shelter immediately or have your lungs com-bust haha. It only ever gets that bad though if you live within about 5kms of the refinery and smelters.
    I can still remember though going out running and having this annoying taste of steel or metal in mouth and throat… Thank god I moved to Ottawa..

    3 years ago
    • Whoa! I am from Sudbury as well (represent!). I do remember a couple of hot days in high school where there was a dense fog where you could taste the sulphur but those were extremely rare. It has drastically improved there since I was a kid but yeah, you can see the SuperStack (in your photo) from pretty much everywhere in town. I’ve been to and lived in a lot of places and gone back to Sudbury often over the years and I have to say that I never felt that there was bad air quality in Sudbury. I have many relatives that have lived all their lives and even worked in the mines in Sudbury and lived into their late 90s without any lung trouble so……maybe it all just blows away to the east and we should consult the people in North Bay? Or Ottawa? ;)

      3 years ago
      • Well hello to my fellow, ex-sudburian? As a kid I spent alot of time in Copper Cliff, where my cousins lived and I remember my father telling me that they had air sirens in the area to warn people about the air quality? Maybe he was just pulling my leg but that’s what I remember. I noticed a huge difference when i went to Halifax NS for 3 weeks when I was 16 I felt like the air was much cleaner. (Possibly because I was right on the Atlantic Ocean) Oh well, personally when I used to go for runs in Sudbury I used get this weird taste of metal in my mouth. My mother told me it was because of the mines and superstack. Do you still reside in sudbury?

        3 years ago
        • LOL! I’m over 40 and, while I don’t doubt that they exist, I have yet to hear those air raid sirens go off. Back in the early 1900s when they used open smelters fueled by wood, things were must worse and part of why the area around Sudbury is/was de-forested. I absolutely will not defend Sudbury with respect to pollution, acid rain, whatever, but because of its topography/weather situation, the air quality hasn’t been bad in a long long time. If you “taste” the pollution in the air as I occasionally did when younger, it tastes like rotten eggs due to the sulphur content. If you have a metallic taste in your mouth after heavy exercise, it’s actually copper from blood because you have over-exercised and not realized it. Sure, the ocean air feels fresher because the salt in the air that you are not used to invigorates you and well, a holiday makes us all breathe easier ;).

          It may be weird but, as a kid I always found it comforting to see the Super Stack (even from New Sudbury) because I felt that I would never really get lost if I kept it in sight. Ironically, when I moved to Southern Ontario I found out that I had an undiscovered ragweed allergy which is completely nasty for months because I wasn’t exposed to it until my 20s. So to me, the air quality up north is much better ;) and moving back north has always been in my plans. We shall see, Ottawa has lots to offer too but I would move back to Montreal in a heartbeat, given the chance.

          3 years ago
  37. We have visible pollen here (VA, USA)

    …#USNASTIESDARKBLUE…*cough* Sorry, I slipped ;-)
    I mean visible coming off the trees in clouds, blowing like evil fairy dust in the wind visible. It covers my car, it is on my cats, it is on my door and you can see a greenish-yellow tinge to your skin, hair and clothes. Not visible pieces of pollen, just enough of a bulk of tiny pollen that it looks like a cloud. MISERABLE. I think this year I might just wear a mask and sunglasses instead of suffering through it.

    3 years ago
    • On FB we’ve divided the country in to color regions for ease of life. Look up US Nasties and the main page will have your map for reference

      3 years ago
      • Hmm, I will do my best! In the photographs of the US Nasties Facebook page are several graphics. You find what color your state has been assigned and then also join that group.
        The first question is; what state do you live in?

        3 years ago
      • oh you should! it seems that Nasties in all regions are able to connect with like-minded souls :D

        3 years ago
    • Wow. Y’all got it early. I am not jealous.

      3 years ago
    • Ugh, tree pollen of death! We got that in Saint Louis too. And its always at the time when I’m really excited to open the windows and enjoy the embrace of nature- only to have my apartment coated in natural toxins. Good feeling gone.

      3 years ago
  38. Malaysia was recently affected by the haze…it’s something like yellow dust but not quite. The air gets all smoggy and you can smell the nasty burnt smell in the air. Worse of all, visibility drops sooooo low you can’t see the road when you’re driving.

    3 years ago
  39. Does it only happen around this time of year, or can it happen through-out the year? Like in Sept-Oct.?

    3 years ago
  40. that u thingy is the letter mu in greek which if you’re all for sciency stuff means “micro” so it’s x micrograms of dust particles in the air of whatever comes in the yellow dust, which is obviously not good for breathing :D

    3 years ago
    • Have you guys listened to his last album??The song Weakling Paradinas is soooooo good

      3 years ago
    • it IS a clever name :D (it took me a while to figure it out hahaha)

      3 years ago