What you need to know about sulfur dioxide exposure

Local News

Talmadge Magno, the Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, says that the first responders are feeling the effects of sulphur dioxide working in Leilani Estates.

Magno says officers and firefighters that were out in the area on the first night reported experiencing headaches when they went back to their homes. The exposure usually does not long lasting, and Magno says you can recover from it.

However, now they are taking measures to make sure that they’re not getting exposed and then getting hurt from the exposure.

Hawaii County officials added that the sulfur dioxide levels in the Leilani Estates area remain very high, and by state’s code it would be code red.

“I can tell you that sulfur dioxide is a very serious irritant and at high levels it can cause respiratory damage. People who are staying in their homes right now, which we are not advising are exposing themselves to very high risk,” Sen. Josh Green (D) said. Green is an emergency room doctor.

The symptoms of inhaling sulfur dioxide include irritated eyes, sore throat, and a wheezing cough. 

Green says that the gas can be disastrous to people with chronic lung diseases and heavy smokers. 

Janet Babb of the U.S. Geological Survey says that other gases created by lava in the area can cause problems as well.

“When lava moves over asphalt, it creates a very toxic smoke and should be avoided. Also as it move through these populated areas, there’s different kinds of structures and building materials. A lot of these are synthetic, so if they burn that can also create some dangerous smoke,” Babb explained.The state health department says store bought masks will not protect people from the toxic gases. That includes N-95, dusk masks, and others types you can purchase at stores.

They say the best way to protect yourself is to leave the lava zone.

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