Life in the Dust Bin: Yellow Dust Season Is Here

Each year in the early spring, residents in eastern Asia dread the onslaught of yellow-tinted dust that billows across the sky and settles on, well, everything.

Yellow Dust Satellite

Yellow Dust clouds blowing over the Asian continent, visible on satellite.

If you’re in Korea or Japan, it’s particularly bad. Here in Seoul, you can already see the thin layer of yellow dust on cars, windows and mostly any horizontal surface.

The so-called “Yellow Dust Storms” are also known as “Asian Dust”. It starts as yellow sand in the arid deserts of Mongolia and blows its way through China, which is where it starts to really get nasty. With all of the pollution from China’s massive industrial waste output, the dust picks up a few unwanted passengers.

A complete recipe for Yellow Dust is as follows:

Start with a large quantity of yellow sand from Mongolia, Northern China, and/or Kazakhstan. Mix thoroughly with sulfer, soot, ash, carbon monoxide, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, lead, zinc, and copper. Sprinkle with your choice of viruses and bacteria, add fungi if desired. Add a dash of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics. Finish with a generous dose of asbestos. For extra kick, add Phthalates to interact with the human body as hormone-mimicking garnish. 

Japan Yellow Dust Houses

Approaching cloud, Japan.

Flying into Beijing last month I was appalled at the conditions of the air in China. It was a perpetual state of yellow dust in the air. As the plane landed we descended from blue skies into a putrid cloud of exhaust. Everyone hears stories about the air in Beijing, but seeing it firsthand (and breathing it) is an entirely different experience altogether.

So each year as the winds bring about our annual visitor, we in Korea and Japan get to experience life in a cloud of nastiness. Fortunately, most news outlets regularly broadcast “yellow dust warnings” when the air reaches less-than-safe levels. In most parts of Seoul there are even electronic billboards that broadcast current air quality conditions.

It’s a bit like having a neighbour who constantly burns tires in his backyard while the smoke blows into yours while you’re trying lay by the pool in the sun.

Yellow Dust Toyko Tower


If you live in Asia, live air quality information can be accessed here.

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  1. […] the cycle continues. To make matters worse, springtime brings with it yellow dust storms that aggravate any symptoms you might have. Air quality can make a sudden turn for the worse, and […]

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