USA Today is reporting on the worsening environmental conditions surrounding California’s Salton Sea, whose shoreline is drying up and creating a toxic mix of dust and dirt that triggers residents’ asthma.

A serious asthma crisis is afflicting communities around the Salton Sea. The southeastern corner of California has some of the worst air pollution in the country, where dirt from farmland and the open desert mixes with windblown clouds of toxic dust rising from the Salton Sea’s receding shores.

Imperial County already has the highest rate of asthma-related emergency room visits for children in California. And the problem is about to get much worse.

At the end of this year, the sea will begin to shrink more rapidly under a water transfer deal that’s abruptly cutting off a large portion of the Colorado River water that flows into the lake. Thousands of acres of lakebed will be left exposed in the coming years, sending bigger clouds of fine dust wafting into the air in the Imperial and Coachella valleys – which is laced with pesticides such as DDT and heavy metals that have accumulated in the lake over decades.