While the level of the Aral Sea has fluctuated over its existence, the most recent level drop since the 1960s was caused by the Soviet Union building massive irrigation projects in the region. The severely reduced inflow subsequently caused the water level in the Aral Sea to drop. While the North Aral Sea is rising due to the Dike Kokaral, the South Aral Sea kept dropping, thus expanding the size of the desert, until 2010, when the South Aral Sea was partly reflooded. The water level of the South Aral Sea then began to drop again, this time more severely.
The bed of the former Aral Sea in Uzbekistan in 2004
The sands of the Aralkum and the dust that originates from it contain pollutants. The desert's location on a powerful east–west airstream has resulted in pesticides in the dust being found in the blood of penguins in Antarctica. Aral dust has also been found in the fields of Russia, the forests of Norway, and in the glaciers of Greenland.
Pandey, Anish Chandra; Jha, Niraj K (2007). "Central Asia: Democratic deficit and challenges of sustainable development". Journal of Environmental Research and Development. 1 (4): 403–411. Retrieved 11 February 2016. Salt, sand, and dust from exposed Aral Sea mud beds blow across the region, harming people and crops. The excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers from farms has poisoned food and drinking water. The human cost of the crisis has been high in the Aral Sea area. For instance, infant mortality rates have consistently been the highest in the former Soviet Union
Nurushev, A (April 1999). "Crisis of the Aral Sea". Himalayan and Central Asian Studies. 3 (2): 50–58. Retrieved 11 February 2016. ... The effect of pollution is aggravated by the fact that the Aral Sea is situated on the "highway" where strong currents of air are blowing from the west to the east. ... That is why pesticides from the Aral region are found in the blood of penguins living in the Antarctic continent. ...
^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "...typical Aral dust has been found on Greenland's glaciers, in Norway's forests, and Byelorussia's fields, all situated thousands of kilometers away from Central Asia."