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History Brief: Dust Pneumonia and Dust Storm Preparations

November 9, 2019

One of the worst health conditions from the
Dust Bowl era was dust pneumonia. What was dust pneumonia? What methods did Dust Bowl residents use to
try and combat the encroaching dust? During the 1930s, when the Great Plains region
was being plagued by a drought and ravaged by dust storms, a new physical ailment emerged. It was known as dust pneumonia, and it was
caused by breathing in dust from the air. Dirt would fill the lungs and cause coughing,
tightness of the chest, labored breathing, and shortness of breath. Children and the elderly were affected the
most, with deaths being common. Many were hospitalized because of this condition,
but it is difficult to tell exact numbers because medical records from the era were
either not kept, or not well preserved. Those who lived in the Dust Bowl tried many
methods to combat the dust and keep themselves healthy. Parents would have their children sleep with
sheets over their beds, like a tent, to reduce the amount of dust they inhaled during their
sleep. Dust masks and wet cloths over the mouth were
other methods that some used to try and prevent dust inhalation. Additionally, goggles were sometimes worn
to keep blowing dust out of the eyes. Housewives made many efforts to keep the dirt
and dust out of the home. Sometimes these activities were as simple
as constantly sweeping the floors. Other methods were more significant, such
as tacking bed sheets in front of doors and windows, wetting them down in an effort to
keep out as much dust as possible. They also used strips of cloth, soaked in
a paste made of flour and water, to insulate the outer edges of windows, trying to seal
them shut. While humans could take these measures, animals
were not so lucky. Cattle and other livestock had little shelter
and nowhere to run from the dust storms. Many families were forced to watch helplessly
as their animals died from dust inhalation. No livestock meant no meat, eggs, milk, or
other dairy products, which only added more hardship to their lives. The dust was everywhere. Residents of the Dust Bowl region lived in
it, breathed it, slept in it, and even ate it (many Dust Bowl survivors testify that
they could feel the gritty dirt in their food). There was no escaping it. The measures mentioned above helped reduce
the dust some, but it was a constant presence in their lives.


  • Reply MMDFULL May 20, 2017 at 1:36 am

    This kinda remind me the roofs made of asbestos, some kids from today are really lucky

  • Reply MAGA ZOG June 13, 2017 at 1:30 am

    I know how it feels. I once almost died from this. When I was in deck division in the submarine navy they had me grind off the asbestos glue down to the metal which held in place flooring tiles. I didn't get a respirator. My supervisor thought it was all a rouse. I almost died.

  • Reply TheSnowyOwl 9455 May 6, 2018 at 12:30 am

    Great video, thxx!

  • Reply Ahriana Tom February 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    This helped me in class, thanks a lot

  • Reply Victoria St. Clair March 20, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    this really helped me in class i had to write about the black blizzard dust bowl storm thx (thanks)

  • Reply Alexander Koterba October 9, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    So sad

  • Reply Cheyenne Close October 10, 2019 at 5:27 pm


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