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Abstract

Background: The south-eastern Mediterranean experiences frequent desert dust storm events (DDS) that have been shown to be associated with adverse health effects. Aims: This study assessed the perceptions and practices towards DDS of local authorities and stakeholders from 3 countries in the region, Cyprus, Greece and Israel. Methods: Between October 2017 and April 2018, we administered a semi-structured questionnaire to regulatory authorities involved in public protection from DDS as well as social stakeholders in the 3 countries. The questionnaire addressed their knowledge regarding DDS, perceptions on the relationship between DDS and health effects and relevant actions taken towards public protection. Results: Out of 58 stakeholders contacted, 49 participated in the study (84.5% response rate). Fourteen (28.6%) were regulatory authorities and 35 (71.4%) were social stakeholders. All responders were familiar with DDS but several underestimated the frequency of events while the majority (73%) instinctively reported that elders, children and respiratory patients are susceptible subpopulations. Nevertheless, 71% were unaware of a national policy on DDS, or considered that this was lacking in their country. Although several stakeholders reportedly receive questions from the public regarding DDS effects, only few reply according to a pre-determined action plan. Conclusions: Regulatory authorities and social stakeholders in Cyprus, Greece and Israel are characterized by good knowledge of DDS and associated health effects, although implementation of pre-determined action plans for public protection is limited. Future efforts should concentrate on increasing awareness among stakeholders and the public and developing national policies, including effective measures to minimize DDS exposure.

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