Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Health Effects of Hawaii’s Erupting Volcano

VOG over Kona, Hawaii
People living on the Big Island of Hawaii have been concerned about the health effects of breathing the volcanic emissions from Kilauea Volcano since the Volcano began erupting over 20 years ago. That concern increased in March 2008 when a new vent opened up tripling the amount of volcanic gas emissions. Volcanic emissions, called VOG in Hawaii, contains sulfuric dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury and many other chemicals. Recently a study was published highlighting the effects of VOG to the residents of the island.

Bernadette Longo, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada's Orvis School of Nursing, compared clinic records in Ka’u, a southern part of the island that is often covered by VOG, for the 14 weeks before the March 2008 eruption to records three months after the volcano's large increase in emissions. Her study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found three times as many headaches and twice as many severe sore throats after the increase in volcanic emissions. The study also found a 56% increase in people reporting coughs, and a 600% increase in acute airway problems that required breathing treatments or hospital emergency care. The report also found VOG increased death rates of individuals with acute illnesses. Longo collaborated with Wei Yang, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics; Dr. Joshua B. Green from the Ka'u Hospital and Rural Health Care Clinic; and advanced practice nurses Frederick and Vickie Crosby, from the Ocean View Family Health Clinic.

When we visit Volcanoes National Park, we watch the thick clouds of steam and ash billowing out of the Volcano’s open vents in awe and wonder. We have many days when the VOG is so thick here on the Big Island, that it is like twilight at noon. We sometimes find ourselves dizzy and dazed on these heavy VOG days. So, like most people living on this active volcanic island, we are not surprised that this recent study shows significant health effects from the VOG.

The State of Hawaii warns residents to monitor the sulfur dioxide levels, stay indoors during heavy VOG days preferably with an AC running, and drink bottled water.
Here are websites to learn more about the Hawaii's volcanic emissions and monitor the sulfur dioxide levels in Hawaii County:
Hawaii State Civil Defense – http://www.scd.hawaii.gov
Hawai‘i County Civil Defense - http://co.hawaii.hi.us/cd/
Hawai‘i State Department of Health – http://hawaii.gov/health
Hawai‘i State Department of Agriculture – http://hawaii.gov/hdoa
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/
Volcanic Air Pollution – http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs169-97/
Current SO2 Conditions – Kilauea Summit – http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/havoso2alert/havoalert.cfm
Precautionary Measures for Elevated Sulfur Dioxide – http://hawaii.gov/health/environmental/air/cab/cab_precautions.html

1 comment:

Sonoma potter said...

do they publish a count of the number of days an area has thick VOG?