So when a mysterious white dust began falling from the sky in Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia in late February, locals were left puzzled and concerned — and some even started spreading conspiracy theories about it. So what exactly was this white dust, and is it something to worry about?
Keep reading for everything we know so far about this enigma.
White dust was seen falling from the sky in Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia — and prompted some conspiracy theories.
As reported by The Daily Mail, on the night of Feb. 23, people across the three states reported seeing a strange, white, powdery substance falling from the sky, and collecting on cars.
Many posted images and accounts about the white dust on Twitter and TikTok, as they struggled to identify what the powder could be.
Soon enough, people began spreading rumors that the powder was no accident nor force of nature. According to The Daily Mail, one person tweeted that their "friend saw a small plane dropping white dust this morning. Something weirds going on," while a TikTok user posted a video wondering if a "chemical attack" could be happening.
On Feb. 23, West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle Working Fires posted on Facebook that night that the state's Department of Environmental Protection "requested that anybody experiencing these issues call 911 immediately and have their local fire department respond. They also advise to shut doors and windows and avoid outdoors at this time as a common sense approach until it can be identified."
That same night, West Virginia's Hampshire County 911 Center posted the following message on Facebook: "If you are experiencing this heavy dust substance at your residence, and are concerned for your safety, per the office of emergency management, remain inside."
The next day, on Feb. 24, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) responded, and made it clear that the situation was being taken seriously. The department noted that it received reports late the night before about the white dust, and promptly sent inspectors to collect samples, in partnership with state and local agencies.
And fortunately, the agency was able to identify the source.
So, what was this white dust?
On Feb. 27, the WVDEP revealed its findings: the dust was mostly just pollen. Yup.
"The WVDEP has received final results from the dust samples collected in the Eastern Panhandle Friday, which indicate the material is predominantly pollen, with trace amounts of mineral matter," the agency announced.
Three days prior, on Feb. 24, WVDEP stated that there were no shelter-in-place advisories for locals — despite reports the night prior that concerned citizens should shut their doors and remain inside.
Typically, pollen appears with a yellow hue when it collects on cars and other surfaces outside. But according to a 2019 study published in New Phytologist, pollen can also appear as white, green, orange, and red.
So, there you have it. The white dust is nothing that locals need to worry about — unless they have pollen allergies, that is.