A thick layer of dust and dirt sits alongside many of the roads throughout the region, the left overs from a winter of salting and sanding – something Ontario Lung Association says could be a breathing hazard.

Kathleen Wheeler loves to run, but these days it's much more challenging. Dealing with dust and dirt on the roads is something she battles every time she heads out in the spring.

“It goes in your eyes and nose, it's just hard to breathe and it makes your run a little more difficult,” she says.

Some road dust is created by cars running over left over sand and salt from winter road maintenance.

“As it gets disturbed the dust floats into the air,” says Connie Choy of Ontario Lung Association. “It can get into people's lungs really simply as the wind kind of pushes it and dust flies through the air all the time.”

Once inside the body, those dust particles can get trapped and stay inside the lungs. That can create some serious health issues, especially for people who have lung disease or asthma. Young children are also at risk.

“It can really trigger their symptoms and actually make them have trouble breathing for a long period of time.”

In Simcoe County, 50,000 to 60,000 metric tonnes of sand are applied each winter. Roughly 20,000 tonnes of salt is also used.  Even though the roads aren't pretty when the snow melts, county officials say sand and salt is necessary to keep drivers safe.

“With the amount of snow and ice that we see through the winter season, it is a necessary requirement to make sure the public can travel safely,” says Christian Meile, director of transportation and engineering for Simcoe County

Until the roads are cleaned, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

“Obviously try not to be walking along as much as possible, but some people might choose to wear a mask,” says Choy.

Spring road cleaning has already started in York Region and will continue for the next three weeks. Crews in Simcoe County will hit the roads towards the end of this month.