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Continuing Kilauea Eruptions Present Lung Health Challenges to Hawaii Residents

(July 22, 2018) - HONOLULU

For more information please contact:

Holly Harvey
[email protected]
(206) 512-3292

The emissions from the Kilauea eruption continue to present a safety hazard and lung health risks for people in Hawaii.

In particular, vog is a huge risk to lung health and is comprised of volcanic ash mixed with water and tiny particles that pollutes the air. One of the gases commonly found in vog is sulfur dioxide, which irritates the eyes and causes a range of harmful effects on the lungs, including wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

“The eruptions and lava flow from Kilauea can have a significant impact on lung health,” said Kahala Howser, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “Hawaii residents and visitors should take precautions to protect themselves and be aware of the health challenges they face. It’s also important to recognize our more vulnerable groups, including our kupuna (elderly) and our keiki (children) face greater air quality challenges, and need to follow safety procedures to protect their health.”

In addition to vog, Kilauea also produces tons of lava every day. When the lava flows into the ocean, the intense heat evaporates the water, vaporizing salts at the same time. As the water vapor cools, the salts recombine and hydrogen chloride is formed. This reacts with water to form droplets of hydrochloric acid and even tiny glass particles. The droplets scatter light forming a haze called "laze," named for lava and haze.

There are several actions and precautions that people in Hawaii can take to protect their lungs:

  • Stay inside until the dust settles, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut. Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources and tape drafty windows.
  • Put air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved into the room and clean air will circulate through air conditioners and air cleaners. Consider using an air purifier in your home.
  • Refrain from all outdoor exercise if the air quality forecast is code red (Unhealthy) or higher.
  • Monitor the wind direction to find out where vog will be blown that day. You can find out the wind direction by watching a weather report, listening to a weather radio or by checking a newspaper.
  • If pulmonary symptoms are not relieved by the usual medicines, seek medical attention. Symptoms to watch for include: wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty taking a full breath, chest heaviness, lightheadedness, or dizziness.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about vog, volcanic ash, or lung health, contact Holly Harvey at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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