Air quality and respiratory hazards accompany latest Kilauea volcanic eruption

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — While it is a spectacular sight, the new Kilauea eruption creates hazards that residents and visitors need to be aware of.

One hazard includes Pele’s Hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments from the lava fountains that will fall downwind of the fissure vents. People should minimize exposure to these particles because they can cause skin and eye irritation.

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“My understanding, at least currently, with the kind of eruption that’s happening now within the crater is that while Pele’s Hair may be being created in some places, it’s not traveling very far from the crater,” explained Dr. Diana Felton, state toxicologist for the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH).

The eruption is also creating high levels of volcanic gas, which creates the potential for airborne health hazards.

“That’s going to be children and elderly people but also people with any respiratory problems like asthma or chronic lung disease,” Dr. Felton said. “Even some heart conditions can make you more sensitive to the air you breathe.”

Several areas on the Big Island on Thursday, Sept. 30, already saw spikes into the “orange” level on DOH air quality monitors, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

“Early this morning, there were some increases in sulfur dioxide and particulate matter on the east side in Hilo,” Dr. Felton said. “The rest of the day, it’s really been more elevations in some of the southwestern communities like Ocean View, Naalehu and Pahala.”

Experts recommend those who are having a reaction to vog should stay indoors and turn on their air conditioners and, if possible, get away from the area.

“The standard face coverings for COVID are not going to protect people against sulfur dioxide,” Dr. Felton said. “The gases is too fine, gets right through cloth.”

The Hawai’i Department of Health is encouraging residents and visitors to utilize the following resources that provide complete, clear and current information on the health effects of vog, how to protect yourself, vog, as well as wind forecasts, air quality, changing conditions and advice for visitors.

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Links from the DOH:

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