Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hawaiian volcano may be health risk

01.03.2005


Hawaiian residents who live downwind from the long-active Kilauea volcano may have elevated risks of adverse health conditions because of high levels of sulfur dioxide and aerosol particulates that drift downwind, according to a new study by researchers at Oregon State University and Hawaii.



During a three-week period of average volcanic activity, the researchers measured the sulfur dioxide level in the Kau district south of Kilauea at 17.8 parts per billion – above the minimal risk level of 10 parts per billion, a guideline set by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In comparison, Honolulu – located on another island and not in the path of the Kilauea plume – measured just 1.0 ppb during the same time interval. Measurements taken in Los Angeles during that same period averaged a level of 7.0 ppb. Results of the study have been published in the March issue of the journal Geology.

"When Kilauea began erupting in 1983, there were a number of studies that looked at emissions directly from the volcano, but they haven’t looked at the dispersal pattern, or the long-term associated health risk," said Bernadette M. Longo, a recent doctoral graduate in public health at OSU and lead author on the study. "What we found is some cause for concern."


Sulfur dioxide is emitted from Kilauea as a gas and then it begins to change, forming tiny particles and becoming an aerosol. The particle size gradually grows larger and a visible haze develops. About 70 percent of the time, the Pacific tradewinds blow the emissions southward, toward the small communities of Pahala, Na’alehu and Ocean View. Yet what monitoring has been done has taken place in Hilo, north of the volcano, and on the Kona Coast, which is on the other side of the island well down the plume’s path, Longo said.

Longo said sulfur dioxide gas at elevated levels can cause bronchial irritation and trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. Potential health risks expand to a broader section of the public when the gas turns to particulate matter, she pointed out. "The particles can affect lung defenses and the ability to clear material out of the lungs," she said. "They can cause bronchitis. And some of the newest research suggests that prolonged exposure to these particles may be associated with cardiac problems."

Longo, who worked for more than 20 years as a nurse before pursuing her doctorate at Oregon State, has surveyed long-time local residents in communities south of Kilauea to see if they have experienced health problems at a higher rate than other Hawaiians. She has compiled that data and hopes to publish a second paper later this year. Assisting Longo with the study were Anita Grunder, a professor in the OSU Department of Geosciences and an expert in volcanism; Raymond Chuan, a retired physicist in Hawaii who conducted some of the first air assessments of Kilauea in the late 1990s; and Annette Rossignol, a professor in OSU’s Department of Public Health and an epidemiologist.

Grunder said effusive basalt volcanoes – like Kilauea or Masaya in Nicaragua – can emit a great deal of sulfur dioxide into the lower atmosphere even when not erupting. By contrast, Washington’s Mount St. Helens is a dacite volcano that emits sulfur dioxide primarily during eruptions, and even then injects it high into the atmosphere, where the immediate impact on humans is less.

Kilauea is the top "point source" for sulfur dioxide in the United States, the researchers say. "They found that sulfur dioxide from Kilauea in the Kau district is concentrated near the coast and is less at higher elevations," Grunder said. "Aerosol concentrations were the opposite; low at the coast and higher at higher elevation. The SO2 can react with moisture in the lungs to create sulfuric acid. If you flush rain through an SO2 atmosphere, you get acid rain. "Plants don’t like it; cars and signs get rusty," she added. "At Masaya (in Nicaragua), when they hang clothes on the line, they can get holes in their clothes." Grunder said the study has application for millions of people around the world potentially at-risk for exposure to volcanic gas, as well as industrial air pollution.

Longo said the study was conducted during a three-week period in 2003 during which the tradewinds blew in a normal pattern every day, the volcano had average emissions, and it typically rained in the afternoon. In short, she said, the conditions were typical, not extreme.

She found the volcano’s plume moves offshore over the ocean at night, and then comes inland by mid-morning. "If that pattern holds – and we need more data to confirm it – we could identify times when it is best to exercise or work in the garden," Longo said, "as well as times when it might be best to refrain from physical activities."

The island of Hawaii does have a monitoring system and a Vog index, the researchers point out, but it is measured only along the Kona Coast, not in Kau. This "volcano-smog" index – Vog is a locally coined term - also is based on aerosol visibility, not SO2. "Unfortunately, sulfur dioxide is invisible, so people can’t see that they are being exposed," Longo said. "One of our recommendations is to establish monitoring in the region directly south of the volcano, not just in the more heavily populated areas."

Bernadette Longo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.orst.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>