Kilauea Located on the southeast part of Hawaii Island, Hawaii.  In the Hawaii religion they believe that the goddess of volcanoes, Pele, lives on this volcano.   The last major eruption was on March 19, 2008 when people experienced the first eruption since 1982.  This released high amounts of sulfur dioxide gas which poisoned many people who lived by the volcano.  The area around Kileauea in Hawaii has done many studies on how the volcano has effected air quality and breathing.  It effects asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis
Kileaua Hawaii Volcano
A study by Hathaway in 1991, showed that:
Air with 5% CO2 causes perceptible increased respiration;
6-10% results in shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, sweating, and general restlessness;
10-15% causes impaired coordination and abrupt muscle contractions;
20-30% causes loss of consciousness and convulsions;
over 30% can cause death.

Volcanoes eruptions release 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year

People release  27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) of carbon
thru burning of fossil fuels, cement production, and gas flaring,
These and other carbon releasing activites release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes.  that is equal to more than 8,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea (Kilauea emits about 3.3 million tonnes/year)! (Gerlach et. al., 2002)

Historical examples of the effects of carbon dioxide gas
•Mammoth Mountain in Long Valley Caldera, California. Carbon dioxide kills trees near Mammoth Mountain, California

Hydrogen is an oderless, colorless, tasteless gas.  It is highly flammable. Hydrogen combines with oxygen to make water.  (H2O)  It is part of organic molecules in living things. It is also part of all acids.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxoide is oderless and colorless. It is poisonous to humans, all warm blooded animals and many other living things.  When a person or warm blooded animals breathes in carbon monoxide, it mixes with hemoglobin in the blood preventing oxygen from being carried thru the bloodstream. A small amount of carbon moxide in the air, 1/1000 of 1% of the air, could produce symptoms like, headache, nauseau, fatigue followed by unconsciousness, poisoning and death. Breathing 1/5 of 1% for less than 30 minutes could be fatal.

Hydrogen Sulfide
Rotten egg smell is sulfur in the air. It is a colorless gas that is flammable  It can irritate the eyes at low concentrations and can act as a depressant.

As Hydrogen Sulfide concentrations increaseit can irritate the upper respitory tract. If can cause pulmonary edema if a perons has long term exposure. A 30-minute exposure to 500 ppm results in headache, dizziness, excitement, staggering gait, and diarrhea, followed sometimes by bronchitis or bronchopneumonia.

Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) / Chlorine
Volcano gas also contains chlorine combine with hydrogen to form a a gas called hydrochloic acid (HCl).  When breathed the gas irritates the respiratory tracts and the membranes of the eyes. 

over 35 ppm cause irritation of the throat after short exposure
>100 ppm results in pulmonary edema, and often laryngeal spasm.

HCl is part of acid rain, when it condenses in rain drops the acid wears away buildings as it reacts with limestone, concrete and other building materials.

Hydrofluoric Acid (HF)  / Fluorine

People exposed to high concentrations of fluorine or hydrofluoric acid in the air or in the ash could have symptoms of conjunctivitis, skin irritation, bone degeneration and mottling of teeth. 

A millimeter of ash on grass contains a high enough concentration of fluorine, greater than 250 ppm, to poison livestock that might eat it.It is also part of acid rain.

Demographic map of area around Kilauea volcano
screen shots are below Research articles

Gases In Kilauea
Temperature at Summit Hot Spot  1170°C

H2O  water                         37.1%                        
CO2  carbon dioxide        48.1%         
SO2   sulfur dioxide         11.8%
H2    hydrogen                   0.49%
CO   carbon monoxide     1.51%
H2S  hydrogen sulfide     0.04%
HCl  Hydrochloric acid   0.08%

found in high quantities at other volcanoes
Chlorine, Bromine, Flourine

example: Eyafjallajoekull,
HF   Hydrofluoric Acid 

Sulfur Dioxide and
Hydroflouric Acid most toxic 
ASH particles
In the ash are solid particles that can also be in the air that people breathe. Crystalline silica (also known as cristobalite) is most often found.
Sometimes it has iron (Fe) attached to it.

In July 1995 the Soufriere Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat began to erupt. People were breathing in silica, studies were done on its effects. 10 years later some people have mild forms of silicosis.
Effects of volcano gases depend on three things:
1) the quantity of gas released into the atmospher
2) how high gas is released into the troposphere or 
3) wind and weather patterns that move the gas

Sulfur Dioxide / Sulfur
Sulfur Dioxide is colorless but irritates skin and the tissues and membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. The upper respiratory tract and bronchi are areas most affected.

World Health Organization guidelines:
not greater than 0.5 ppm over 24 hours
6-12 ppm can cause immediate irritationof nose and throat
20 ppm can irritate eyes
10,000 pm can irritate your skin within minutes

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano create volcanic smog. The sulfur dioxide gas creates Volcanoic smog or vog when it chemically reacts with sunlight, water, oxygen and dust that is also in the air.

Eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano release large quantities of sulfur dioxide. A measurable 0.0005 km3/day (500,000 m3) of basalt magma releases about 2,000 tonnes of SO2 into the lower troposphere. When the volcano erupts, the gas was sent downwind from the vent by winds and causes acid rain, air pollution and health problems for people that live in the area.

Sulfur dioxide cools the troposphere and warms the stratosphere resluting in changes in the climate. Liquid drops of sulfuric acid work to destroy the Earth s ozone layer.  Mount St. Helens, Washington (1980), El Chichon, Mexico (1982), and Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (1991).are examples of this occurence.
GASES in Kilauea
Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is also released in large quantities by volcanoes each year.- more than 130 million tonnes of CO2  Usually it does not have major effects on people because it is diluted to lower than dangerous concentrations.
Hawaii - Kilauea Volcano
  indoor air quality
  adult health
  bronchitis and air pollution
  volcano gases + smog (car & factory/industrial pollution) = vog
Component and Location of Volcano

sulfuric acid - Costa Rica, Hawaii
flourine - Iceland, New Zealand
mercury - Japan
bromine -- Soufrière Hills

ash - silica/cristabolite - Soufrière Hills

Dangerous levels occure when CO2 is more than 30% of the air s composition. The gas is heavier than the other gases in air, so it goes into low-lying areas. Avoid small depressions in the gorund, or low lying areas. Breathing in high levels of CO2 can cause unconsiousness and death to people and animals. One step upslope can be the difference between lethal and nonletha levels of CO2.
Volcano  Air Quality - Breathing Silica and Ash Particles
Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema
Rainbow_and_eruption_of_Halemauma vent_at_Kilauea
USGS - Kileaua Eruption

ICELAND - Eyjafjallajokull
airplanes in Europe
gas plumes travels

    It is located on the southern part of Iceland.  It has erupted twice throughout this year and has caused many air traffic problems.  
. Read more ...

Hawaii - Kilauea
indoor air quality,
breathing silica ash particles
bronchitis, emphysema, asthma

    Kilauea is located on the southeast part of Hawaii Island, Hawaii.  In the Hawaii religion they believe that the goddess of volcanoes, Pele, lives on this volcano.. Read more ...

COSTA RICA - Arenal, Geotourism
  On almost a daily basis, red-hot rocks crash down its steep slopes and volcanic grumbles produce huge ash columns above the crater. Read more ...

New Zealand - Ruapehu
crops, livestock, vegetation

   It is the highest point in the North Island and includes three major peaks: Tahurangi (2,797 m), TeHeuheu (2,755 m) and Paretetaitonga (2,751 m). . Read more ...

ITALY - Mount Etna
Volcano Mercury - Soil, Water

  It is the largest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 3,329 metres (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21 m (69 ft) lower now than it was in 1981. Read more ...

Guatemala - Pacaya
Lava, Boulders,
buildings, transportation, communication, power outages

  After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously since then.
                   Read more ...

Italy - Mount Vesuvius
Ancient Volcanoes

    Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Indonesia - Krakatoa
Krakatoa, also known as Krakatow, is another still-dangerous volcanic island, located in Indonesia in the Sunda Strait.

Underwater Hydrothermal Volcanoes
Bacteria from Volcanoes
Bacteria that live near underwater can metabolize Iron, Sulfur and Methane.

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano on Mars.  Scientists study volcanoes on earth to compare to volcanoes on Mars.
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Hawaii - Kilauea Volcano
  indoor air quality
  adult health
  bronchitis and air pollution
  volcano gases + smog (car & factory/industrial pollution) = vog

Research Articles
Abstracts (summaries) of these studies are on this page, scroll down or choose link to go directly to a specific abstract. The journal that the study was published in and the author(s) is listed with the abstract. If the links do not go directly to the abstract, scroll down to it. There are some browsers experiencing problems. send email to:

An indoor air quality assessment for vulnerable populations exposed to volcanic vog from Kilauea Volcano. 

The Kilauea Volcano adult health study.  

Acute bronchitis and volcanic air pollution: a community-based cohort study at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i, USA.

Effects of volcanic eruptions on environment and health

Health hazards from volcanic gases: a systematic literature review.

Investigation of health effects of hydrogen sulfide from a geothermal source.

The impact of volcanic gases from Miyake island on the chemical constituents in precipitation in the Tokyo metropolitan area. 

Effects of SO2 on respiratory system of adult Miyakejima resident 2 years after returning to the island.

Nine-month observation of effects of SO2 on the respiratory system in child Miyakejima citizens

Volcanic sulfur dioxide and acute respiratory symptoms on Miyakejima island.

Cardiorespiratory health effects associated with sulphurous volcanic air pollution.

Under the volcano: fire, ash and asthma?

Respiratory questionnaire responses: how they change with time.

Acute impact of volcanic ash on asthma symptoms and treatment.

Accuracy of asthma information on the world wide web.

Cristobalite in Volcanic Ash of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, British West Indies

Surface reactivity of volcanic ash from the eruption of Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat, West Indies with implications for health hazards. 

Pulmonary epithelial response in the rat lung to instilled Montserrat respirable dusts and their major mineral components. 

Montserrat volcanic ash induces lymph node granuloma and delayed lung inflammation.

Five-day inhalation toxicity study of three types of synthetic amorphous silicas in Wistar rats and post-exposure evaluations for up to 3 months.  

In vitro toxicology of respirable Montserrat volcanic ash.

Assessment of the exposure of islanders to ash from the Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat, British West Indies.

Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash.

The pulmonary toxicity of an ash sample from the MT. St. Helens Volcano.

Hekla cold springs (Iceland): groundwater mixing with magmatic gases.

Volcano remote sensing with ground-based spectroscopy.

Determination of trace elements in volcanic rock samples collected from cenozoic lava eruption sites using LIBS. 

New geochemical insights into volcanic degassing.

Atmospheric chemistry in volcanic plumes.

Detection of bromine monoxide in a volcanic plume.

Volcanism and the atmosphere: the potential role of the atmosphere in unlocking the reactivity of volcanic emissions. 

An indoor air quality assessment for vulnerable populations exposed to volcanic vog from Kilauea Volcano.  
[Fam Community Health. 2010 Jan-Mar;33(1):21-31. ]
Longo BM, Yang W, Green JB, Longo AA, Harris M, Bibilone R.
Orvis School of Nursing, Division of Health Sciences, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557, USA.

The Ka'u District of Hawaii is exposed to sulfurous air pollution called vog from the ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Increased volcanic activity in 2008 prompted an indoor air quality assessment of the district's hospital and schools. All indoor sulfur dioxide concentrations were above the World Health Organization's average 24-hour recommendation. Indoor penetration ratios were up to 94% of ambient levels and dependent upon building construction or the use of air-conditioning. Health-promotion efforts for vulnerable populations at the hospital and schools are under way to improve indoor air quality and respond to those affected by vog exposure.

The Kilauea Volcano adult health study.   [Nurs Res. 2009 Jan-Feb;58(1):23-31.]
Longo BM.
Orvis School of Nursing, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557, USA.

BACKGROUND: Millions of people reside near active volcanoes, yet data are limited on effects to human health. The Kilauea Volcano is the largest point source for sulfur dioxide in the United States, releasing air pollution on nearby communities since 1983. OBJECTIVE:: The objectives of this study were to provide the first population-based epidemiological estimates and qualitative descriptions of cardiorespiratory health effects associated with volcanic air pollution. METHODS: An environmental-epidemiological design was used. Exposure levels of Kilauea's air pollutants were determined by environmental sampling. Prevalence estimates of cardiorespiratory health effects in adults were measured (N = 335) and compared between an exposed and nonexposed reference community. Descriptions of the human-environment interaction with the long-standing eruption were recorded from informants in the natural setting. RESULTS: Ambient and indoor concentrations of volcanic air pollution were above the World Health Organization's recommended exposure levels. There were statistically significant increased odds associated with exposure for self-reported cough, phlegm, rhinorrhea, sore and dry throat, sinus congestion, wheezing, eye irritation, and diagnosed bronchitis. Thirty-five percent of the informants perceived that their health was affected by the eruption, mainly current and former smokers and those with chronic respiratory disease. DISCUSSION: Hypotheses were supported regarding particulate air pollution and the association with adverse cardiovascular functioning. This emerging environmental health issue is under continuing investigation.

Acute bronchitis and volcanic air pollution: a community-based cohort study at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i, USA.
[J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008]
Longo BM, Yang W.

Eruption at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i, has continued since 1983, emitting sulfurous air pollution into nearby communities. The purpose of this cohort study was to estimate the relative risk (RR) of acute bronchitis over a period from January 2004 to December 2006 in communities exposed to the volcanic air pollution. A community-based case review was conducted using medical records from clinics and emergency rooms in exposed and unexposed study areas. Initial visits by local residents for diagnosed acute bronchitis were clinically reviewed. The cumulative incidence rate for the 3-yr period was 117.74 per 1000 in unexposed communities and 184.63 per 1000 in exposed communities. RR estimates were standardized for age and gender, revealing an elevated cumulative incidence ratio (CIR) of 1.57 (95% CI = 1.36-1.81) for acute bronchitis in the exposed communities. Highest risk [CIR: 6.56 (95% CI = 3.16-13.6)] was observed in children aged 0-14 yr who resided in the exposed communities. Exposed middle-aged females aged 45-64 yr had double the risk for acute bronchitis than their unexposed counterparts. These findings suggest that communities continuously exposed to sulfurous volcanic air pollution may have a higher risk of acute bronchitis across the life span.

Effects of volcanic eruptions on environment and health [Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2007 Dec;58(4):479-86.]
[Article in Croatian]
Zuskin E, Mustajbegovic J, Doko Jelinic J, Pucarin-Cvetkovic J, Milosevic M.
Sveuciliste u Zagrebu, Medicinski fakultet, Skola narodnog zdravlja, Zagreb, Hrvatska.

Volcanoes pose a threat to almost half a billion people; today there are approximately 500 active volcanoes on Earth, and every year there are 10 to 40 volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions produce hazardous effects for the environment, climate, and the health of the exposed persons, and are associated with the deterioration of social and economic conditions. Along with magma and steam (H2O), the following gases surface in the environment: carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon sulphide (CS), carbon disulfide (CS2), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen bromide (HBr) and various organic compounds, as well as heavy metals (mercury, lead, gold).Their unfavourable effects depend on the distance from a volcano, on magma viscosity, and on gas concentrations. The hazards closer to the volcano include pyroclastic flows, flows of mud, gases and steam, earthquakes, blasts of air, and tsunamis. Among the hazards in distant areas are the effects of toxic volcanic ashes and problems of the respiratory system, eyes and skin, as well as psychological effects, injuries, transport and communication problems, waste disposal and water supplies issues, collapse of buildings and power outage. Further effects are the deterioration of water quality, fewer periods of rain, crop damages, and the destruction of vegetation. During volcanic eruptions and their immediate aftermath, increased respiratory system morbidity has been observed as well as mortality among those affected by volcanic eruptions. Unfavourable health effects could partly be prevented by timely application of safety measures.

Health hazards from volcanic gases: a systematic literature review.
[Arch Environ Health. 2004 Dec;59(12):628-39.]
Hansell A, Oppenheimer C.
Department of Epidemiology & Public Health Imperial College London, London, UK.

Millions of people are potentially exposed to volcanic gases worldwide, and exposures may differ from those in anthropogenic air pollution. A systematic literature review found few primary studies relating to health hazards of volcanic gases. SO2 and acid aerosols from eruptions and degassing events were associated with respiratory morbidity and mortality but not childhood asthma prevalence or lung function decrements. Accumulations of H2S and CO2 from volcanic and geothermal sources have caused fatalities from asphyxiation. Chronic exposure to H2S in geothermal areas was associated with increases in nervous system and respiratory diseases. Some impacts were on a large scale, affecting several countries (e.g., Laki fissure eruption in Iceland in 1783-4). No studies on health effects of volcanic releases of halogen gases or metal vapors were located. More high quality collaborative studies involving volcanologists and epidemiologists are recommended.

Investigation of health effects of hydrogen sulfide from a geothermal source.
[Arch Environ Health. 2002 Sep-Oct; 57(5):405-11.]
Bates MN, Garrett N, Shoemack P.

Little is known about health effects from chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The city of Rotorua, New Zealand, is exposed to H2S by virtue of its location over a geothermal field. In this study, the authors classified areas within Rotorua as high-, medium, or low-H2S exposure areas. Using 1993-1996 morbidity data, standardized incidence ratios were calculated for neurological, respiratory, and cardiovascular effects. Poisson regression analysis was used to confirm results. Results showed exposure-response trends, particularly for nervous system diseases, but also for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Data on confounders were limited to age, ethnicity, and gender. The H2S exposure assessment had limitations. Assumptions were that recent exposure represented long-term exposure and that an individual's entire exposure was received at home. The results of this study strengthen the suggestion that there are chronic health effects from H2S exposure. Further investigation is warranted.

The impact of volcanic gases from Miyake island on the chemical constituents in precipitation in the Tokyo metropolitan area.  [Sci Total Environ. 2005 Apr 1;341(1-3):185-97. Epub 2004 Nov 23.]
Okuda T, Iwase T, Ueda H, Suda Y, Tanaka S, Dokiya Y, Fushimi K, Hosoe M.
Department of Applied Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, 3-14-1 Hiyoshi, Yokohama, 223-8522, Japan.

The volcano on Miyake Island first erupted in July 2000 and continuous emission of volcanic gas from the collapsed caldera has been observed from the middle of August 2000. The large volcanic emission of SO2 had a strong influence on Tokyo metropolitan area, which is located approximately 150 km north of Miyake Island. We measured major ions in precipitation and dry deposition samples which had been collected at five sampling sites (Yokohama, Kashiwa, Fujisawa, Yokosuka, and Hachioji) in the Tokyo metropolitan area for 12 years since 1990. We have evaluated quantitatively the impact of the volcanic SO2 gas emitted from Miyake Island on the Tokyo metropolitan area by comparing depositional ionic constituents in the volcanic degassing period (from September 2000 to August 2001) with those in the normal period of the past 10 years (September 1990 to August 2000). nss-SO4(2-) concentrations in precipitation at the sampling sites in the Tokyo metropolitan area were 59.5-77.0 microeq/L during the degassing period, and 33.3-44.1 microeq/L during the normal period, respectively. The difference of nss-SO4(2-) concentrations between the two periods was statistically significant. In contrast, no significant differences were observed in the concentrations of the other major ions (NH4+, nss-Ca2+, Cl-, and NO3-) between the two periods. The impact of volcanic degassing from Miyake Island on the ionic concentrations in the precipitation of the Tokyo metropolitan area was seen only in the H+ and nss-SO4(2-) concentrations. The annual wet deposition amount of volcanic nss-SO4(2-) into the Tokyo metropolitan area has been quantitatively estimated. The annual wet deposition amounts were calculated as 701+/-277 Meq/year (22.4+/-8.9 kt SO2/year) on the total area of the Tokyo metropolitan area (14,000 km2). The wet deposition amount of nss-SO4(2-) corresponds to only 0.15% of the total annual amount of volcanic SO2 (15 Mt/year) emitted from Miyake Island from September 2000 to August 2001. This estimation is consistent with a previous study which reported that 0.3% of the atmospheric discharge of SO2 from the volcano in Mt. Etna in Sicily was deposited by precipitation to the surrounding area (1200 km2). The annual wet deposition amount of volcanic SO2 to the Tokyo metropolitan area was at the same order of the magnitude (37+/-15%) as the annual anthropogenic SO2 amount (60 kt/year) emitted from the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Effects of SO2 on respiratory system of adult Miyakejima resident 2 years after returning to the island.
[J Occup Health. 2009;51(1):38-47. Epub 2008 Nov 6.]
Iwasawa S, Kikuchi Y, Nishiwaki Y, Nakano M, Michikawa T, Tsuboi T, Tanaka S, Uemura T, Ishigami A, Nakashima H, Takebayashi T, Adachi M, Morikawa A, Maruyama K, Kudo S, Uchiyama I, Omae K.
Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, Keio University, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

BACKGROUND: Mt. Oyama in Miyakejima Island erupted in June, 2000. All Miyake villagers were forced to evacuate from the island in September, 2000, due to continuous eruptions and emissions of unsafe amounts of volcanic gas, mainly SO2. From February, 2005, Miyake villagers returned to the island despite volcanic gas still being emitted. OBJECTIVES: This study examines the 2-yr changes in Miyake residents' respiratory systems from autumn 2004 to November 2006. METHODS: The study population was 823 Miyake adult residents who participated in the health check-up in 2006. Respiratory effects were evaluated by a questionnaire for respiratory symptoms and spirometry. SO2 has been continuously monitored at 7 sampling points of the inhabited area. The mean SO2 concentration from February 2005 to November 2006 was 0.031 ppm. The area was categorized into 4 areas by SO2 concentration, namely, areas L, H-1, H-2 and H-3, where average SO2 concentrations were 0.019, 0.026, 0.032, and 0.045 ppm, respectively. RESULTS: The study subjects showed no deterioration in lung function. Prevalence of cough and phlegm among all participants were significantly higher in 2006 than in 2004, and age-, sex- and smoking-adjusted odds ratios of cough and phlegm were 1.75 (95%CI 1.33-2.30) and 1.44 (1.12-1.87). Prevalence of chronic bronchitis-like symptoms among normosusceptive subjects in 2006 was 4.1% which was significantly higher than that of 2.1% in 2004 (p=0.035). Compared to area L, the frequencies of phlegm and irritation of the nose were significantly increased in areas H-2 and H-3. CONCLUSION: SO2 exposure-related respiratory symptoms were observed in adult Miyakejima residents after returning to the island.

Nine-month observation of effects of SO2 on the respiratory system in child Miyakejima citizens
[Article in Japanese - Nippon Koshu Eisei Zasshi. 2010 Jan;57(1):39-43.]
Iwasawa S, Michikawa T, Nakano M, Nishiwaki Y, Tsuboi T, Tanaka S, Uemura T, Milojevic A, Nakashima H, Takebayashi T, Morikawa A, Maruyama K, Kudo S, Uchiyama I, Omae K.
Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan.

BACKGROUND: Mt. Oyama on Miyakejima Island erupted in June 2000 and all Miyake village citizens were forced to evacuate the island in the September, due to continuous eruptions and emission of unsafe amounts of volcanic gas, mainly sulfur dioxide (SO2). Beginning in February 2005, residents returned to live on the island despite the fact that volcanic gas was still being emitted. OBJECTIVE: To examine changes in the respiratory systems of included children from February 2006 to November 2006. METHODS: The study population was 141 children who participated in health checkups in November 2006, including 33 SO2 hypersusceptible children who had a current or past history of asthma, obstructive lung function, current symptoms of whistling and wheezing, and/or deterioration of respiratory symptoms. Respiratory effects were evaluated by a questionnaire for respiratory symptoms and by spirometry. SO2 was monitored at 7 sampling points within inhabited areas, and the mean SO2 concentration from February 2005 to November 2006 was 0.031 ppm. The area was categorized into four areas by average SO2 concentration, namely, areas L, H-1, H-2, and H-3, where the average SO2 levels were 0.019, 0.026, 0.032, and 0.045 ppm, respectively. RESULTS: Compared to children in area L, the frequencies of "phlegm" and "irritation of the nose" were significantly greater in the children in areas H-2 and H-3. %FVC and %FEV1 in hypersusceptible children were significantly reduced in November 2006 as compared to February 2006 (P = 0.047, 0.027), though no reduction observed in normosusceptible children. CONCLUSION: Respiratory functions in hypersusceptible Miyakejima children may be affected by SO2 exposure, and further follow-up observation is necessary.

Volcanic sulfur dioxide and acute respiratory symptoms on Miyakejima island.
[Occup Environ Med. 2008 Oct;65(10):701-7.]
Ishigami A, Kikuchi Y, Iwasawa S, Nishiwaki Y, Takebayashi T, Tanaka S, Omae K.
Public & Environmental Health Research Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Kappel Street, London WC1E7HT, UK.

OBJECTIVES: Following a volcanic eruption in 2000, high concentrations of ambient sulfur dioxide (SO2) are still observed on Miyakejima, Japan despite the reversal 2 years ago of the ban on residents living on the island. This study examines the association between current levels of volcanic SO2 and the incidence of acute subjective symptoms in volunteers on Miyakejima. METHODS: The authors conducted a follow-up study on 611 healthy volunteers, on a person-hour basis (28 413 person-hours), who visited the island to provide support to residents from February to July 2005. Adverse health symptoms were measured by self-administered diary and exposure was approximated using monitoring data across 14 sites. Associations between incidence rates and increasing SO2 levels (reference (the lowest), very low, low, middle and high) were examined using Poisson regression. RESULTS: Hourly incidence of cough, scratchy throat, sore throat and breathlessness showed clear exposure-response relationships with SO2 concentrations. There were statistically significant risks of those symptoms at relatively low SO2 levels. Thus, rate ratios in the 0.6-2.0 ppm exposure band (vs <0.01 ppm) were: for cough, 3.4 (95% CI 1.8 to 6.6) in men and 9.8 (3.9 to 24.9) in women; for sore throat, 3.2 (1.7 to 6.2) in men and 5.8 (2.0 to 16.5) in women; and for breathlessness, 10.5 (4.2 to 26.6) in men and 18.5 (4.6 to 74.3) in women. Little evidence of SO2 effects on sputum and nasal discharge/congestion was observed in this study. Eye and skin irritations showed inconsistent results between hourly maximal and hourly mean SO2 concentrations. CONCLUSION: The authors observed strong evidence of an exposure-response relationship between volcanic SO2 and subjective acute respiratory symptoms among a healthy population on Miyakejima. The results are consistent with reports that females and non-smokers are more sensitive to irritant gas than males and smokers, respectively.

Cardiorespiratory health effects associated with sulphurous volcanic air pollution.
[Public Health. 2008 Aug;122(8):809-20. Epub 2008 Feb 21.]
Longo BM, Rossignol A, Green JB.
Department of Public Health, Oregon State University, 254 Waldo Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate cardiorespiratory health effects associated with chronic exposure to volcanogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fine sulphate particle (< or = 0.3 microm) air pollution emitted from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. STUDY DESIGN: Environmental-epidemiological cross-sectional study. METHODS: An air study was conducted to measure exposure levels in the downwind area, and to confirm non-exposure in a reference area. Cross-sectional health data were collected from 335 adults, > or = 20 years of age, who had resided for > or = 7 years in the study areas. Prevalence was estimated for cardiorespiratory signs, and self-reported symptoms and diseases. Logistic regression analysis estimated effect measures between exposed and unexposed groups considering potential confounding including age, gender, race, smoking, dust and body mass index (BMI). Student's t-tests compared mean differences in blood pressure (BP), pulse and respiratory rates. RESULTS: There were statistically significant positive associations between chronic exposure and increased prevalence of cough, phlegm, rhinorrhoea, sore/dry throat, sinus congestion, wheezing, eye irritation and bronchitis. The magnitude of the associations differed according to SO2 and fine sulphate particulate exposure. Group analyses found no differences in pulse rate or BP; however, significantly faster mean pulse rates were detected in exposed non-medicated, non-smoking participants with BMI <25, and in participants aged > or = 65 years. Higher mean systolic BP was found in exposed participants with BMI <25. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term residency in active degassing volcanic areas may have an adverse effect on cardiorespiratory health in adults. Further study at Kilauea is recommended, and the authors encourage investigations in communities near active volcanoes worldwide. Public health interventions of community education, and smoking prevention and cessation are suggested.

Under the volcano: fire, ash and asthma?
[N Z Med J. 1997 Mar 28;110(1040):90-1.]
Bradshaw L, Fishwick D, Kemp T, Lewis S, Rains N, Slater T, Pearce N, Crane J.
Department of Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine.

AIMS: To investigate the prevalence of respiratory symptoms in known asthmatics, following exposure to airborne volcanic ash particles caused by the eruptions of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand, commencing September 1995. METHOD: A one page postal questionnaire was sent to 1392 previously identified asthmatics 2 months after the first major eruption. RESULTS: Two hundred and thirty seven subjects had moved from the area, died or gone overseas since the original contact 4 years previously; therefore the target population was 1155 subjects of whom 361 lived in the exposed area and 794 in the nonexposed areas. The response rates were 246 (68.1%) in the exposed group and 477 (60.1%) in the nonexposed group making a total of 723 individuals. The prevalence of nocturnal shortness of breath in the last two months was 29.3% in the exposed group and 24.7% in the nonexposed (OR = 1.26, 95% CI; 0.83-1.78). Similarly 30.9% of the exposed group had an asthma attack in the last 2 months compared to 31.9% of the nonexposed group (OR = 0.96, 95% CI; 0.69-1.33). Finally, 48.4% of the exposed group used asthma medication in the 2 months following the eruption in comparison to 53% of the nonexposed group (OR = 0.83, 95%, CI; 0.61-1.12). CONCLUSIONS: The study showed no association between living in an area exposed to volcanic ash particles and either asthma symptoms or the use of asthma medication. There was a small but nonsignificant increase in nocturnal shortness of breath in the exposed group.

Respiratory questionnaire responses: how they change with time.
[N Z Med J. 1997 Aug 22;110(1050):305-7.]
Fishwick D, Bradshaw L, Kemp T, Lewis S, Slater T, Crane J, Pearce N.
Department of Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine, USA.

AIM: Responses to respiratory questionnaires are often used to identify individuals with asthma symptoms and may also be used to identify asymptomatic individuals. This study investigates the repeat responses over four years to such a questionnaire in a population of adult New Zealanders. METHODS: Seven hundred and twenty three asthmatics were sent two almost identical questionnaires in three areas of New Zealand, separated by approximately four years. All of them had answered yes to at least one of the three questions under study in the first survey. RESULTS: Following the second asthma questionnaire only 487 (67.4%) answered yes to at least one of the survey questions. Similarly, 51.1% of those who had reported having nocturnal shortness of breath in the first survey did so in the second survey, 69.9% of those who reported having had an asthma attack in the first survey did so in the second survey, and finally 74.8% of those who reported using asthma medication in the first survey did so in the second survey. CONCLUSION: Even in a previously identified symptomatic asthmatic group, a large proportion did not report respiratory symptoms and asthma medication use four years later. This implies that the true prevalence pool of susceptibles is likely to be far greater than is identified in surveys of the 12-month period prevalence of asthma symptoms. This has implications not only for the design of epidemiological studies (e.g., it poses problems for the selection of a control group of non-asthmatics in prevalence case-control studies), but also for the planning of health services and educational programmes for people with asthma.

Acute impact of volcanic ash on asthma symptoms and treatment.
[Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2007 Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):9-14.]
Shimizu Y, Dobashi K, Hisada T, Ono A, Todokoro M, Iijima H, Utsugi M, Kakegawa S, Iizuka K, Ishizuka T, Morikawa A, Mori M.
Department of Medicine and Molecular Science, Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan.

Information about the impacts of disasters on health is useful for establishing hazard prediction maps and action plans of disaster management. This study aims at learning effective asthma management from the volcano disaster of Mount Asama eruption in Japan on September 1, 2004. We conducted a cross-sectional study to assess the acute impact of volcanic ash on asthma symptoms and their treatment changes by using a questionnaire completed by 236 adult asthmatic patients and their physicians. In the ashfall over 100g/m2 area, 42.9 percent of asthma patients suffered exacerbations, PEF decreased, asthma treatments increased, and inhalation of beta2 stimulants was used most for exacerbated asthma. Compared to severe asthma patients, mild and moderate asthma patients were most at risk. Severe asthma patients were not affected since most of them knew their asthma status was severe, and did not go outside and kept windows closed. Deteriorated asthma symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness and cough appeared in the ashfall over 100g/m2 area. Ash contained inhalable 10microm diameter particles, and included high concentrations of airw

Accuracy of asthma information on the world wide web
[J Spec Pediatr Nurs. 2010 Jul;15(3):211-6.]
Meadows-Oliver M, Banasiak NC.
Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

PURPOSE: An essential component of asthma management is education. Parents often turn to the Internet, a 24-hour source of health information. DESIGN AND METHODS: In this descriptive study, two researchers evaluated websites using eight core educational concepts developed by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NHLBI) to determine the accuracy of the health information regarding asthma on the Internet. RESULTS: Of the 68 websites reviewed, only 6 (8.8%) had accurate and complete information regarding asthma according to NHBLI recommendations. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Nurses must be educated regarding the selection of accurate websites on asthma so that in turn, they may educate patients and their families.

breathing silica from ash
Cristobalite in volcanic ash of the soufriere hills volcano, montserrat, british west indies
Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat, West Indies
Mt St Helens 1980

Cristobalite in Volcanic Ash of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, British West Indies
[Science. 1999 Feb 19;283(5405):1142-5.]
Baxter PJ, Bonadonna C, Dupree R, Hards VL, Kohn SC, Murphy MD, Nichols A, Nicholson RA, Norton G, Searl A, Sparks RS, Vickers BP.
Department of Community Medicine, University of Cambridge, Gresham Road, Cambridge, CB12 ES, UK. Department of Earth Sciences, Bristol University, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK. Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. B.

Crystalline silica (mostly cristobalite) was produced by vapor-phase crystallization and devitrification in the andesite lava dome of the Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat. The sub-10-micrometer fraction of ash generated by pyroclastic flows formed by lava dome collapse contains 10 to 24 weight percent crystalline silica, an enrichment of 2 to 5 relative to the magma caused by selective crushing of the groundmass. The sub-10-micrometer fraction of ash generated by explosive eruptions has much lower contents (3 to 6 percent) of crystalline silica. High levels of cristobalite in respirable ash raise concerns about adverse health effects of long-term human exposure to ash from lava dome eruptions.

respiratory ash, silica iron

Surface reactivity of volcanic ash from the eruption of Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat, West Indies with implications for health hazards.  [Environ Res. 2003 Oct;93(2):202-15.]
Horwell CJ, Fenoglio I, Vala Ragnarsdottir K, Sparks RS, Fubini B.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK.

The fine-grained character of volcanic ash generated in the long-lived eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat, West Indies, raises the issue of its possible health hazards. Surface- and free-radical production has been closely linked to bioreactivity of dusts within the lung. In this study, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) techniques have been used, for the first time, on volcanic ash to measure the production of radicals from the surface of particles. Results show that concentrations of hydroxyl radicals (HO*) in respirable ash are two to three times higher than a toxic quartz standard. The dome-collapse ash contains cristobalite, a crystalline silica polymorph that may cause adverse health effects. EPR experiments indicate, however, that cristobalite in the ash does not contribute to HO* generation. Our results show that the main cause of reactivity is removable divalent iron (Fe2+), which is present in abundance on the surfaces of the particles and is very reactive in the lung. Our analyses show that fresh ash generates more HO* than weathered ash (which has undergone progressive oxidation and leaching of iron from exposed surfaces), an effect replicated experimentally by incubating fresh ash in dilute acid. HO* production experiments also indicate that iron-rich silicate minerals are responsible for surface reactivity in the Soufrière Hills ash.

Pulmonary epithelial response in the rat lung to instilled Montserrat respirable dusts and their major mineral components.  [Occup Environ Med. 2002 Jul;59(7):466-72.]
Housley DG, Bérubé KA, Jones TP, Anderson S, Pooley FD, Richards RJ.
School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, PO Box 911, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF1 3US, Wales, UK.

BACKGROUND: The Soufriere Hills, a stratovolcano on Montserrat, started erupting in July 1995, producing volcanic ash, both from dome collapse pyroclastic flows and phreatic explosions. The eruptions/ash resuspension result in high concentrations of suspended particulate matter in the atmosphere, which includes cristobalite, a mineral implicated in respiratory disorders. AIMS: To conduct toxicological studies on characterised samples of ash, together with major components of the dust mixture (anorthite, cristobalite), and a bioreactive mineral control (DQ12 quartz). METHODS: Rats were challenged with a single mass (1 mg) dose of particles via intratracheal instillation and groups sacrificed at one, three, and nine weeks. Acute bioreactivity of the particles was assessed by increases in lung permeability and inflammation, changes in epithelial cell markers, and increase in the size of bronchothoracic lymph nodes. RESULTS: Data indicated that respirable ash derived from pyroclastic flows (20.1% cristobalite) or phreatic explosion (8.6% cristobalite) had minimal bioreactivity in the lung. Anorthite showed low bioreactivity, in contrast to pure cristobalite, which showed progressive increases in lung damage. CONCLUSION: Results suggests that either the percentage mass of cristobalite particles present in Montserrat ash was not sufficient as a catalyst in the lung environment, or its surface reactivity was masked by the non-reactive volcanic glass components during the process of ash formation.

Montserrat volcanic ash induces lymph node granuloma and delayed lung inflammation.
[Toxicology. 2004 Feb 15;195(2-3):155-65.]
Lee SH, Richards RJ.
School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, PO Box 911, Cardiff, CF10 3US, UK.

OBJECTIVES: A substantial amount of Montserrat volcanic ash, containing up to 24% of cristobalite (w/w), a fibrogenic crystalline silica, has been generated since the first documented eruption in 1995. The bioreactivity of the ash and its two major components: cristobalite and anorthite have been studied in vivo for a year following intratracheal instillation into rats. METHODS: The rats (n=5) were instilled with a sterile vehicle solution (0.15 M NaCl) and/or three doses (1.0, 2.5 or 5.0 mg) of each of the dust, and were sacrificed at 13, 25 or 49 weeks post-instillation for quantitative biochemical and histopathological analyses in the lung and lymph nodes. RESULTS: Cristobalite caused inflammation in the lung and granuloma in the hilar lymph nodes associated with significant size augmentation at 13 weeks post-instillation (P<0.05) and cristobalite (5.0 mg) induced fibrosis in the lung at 49 weeks post-exposure. However, the Montserrat volcanic ash caused inflammation in the lung at 49 weeks post-treatment without any fibrogenic response although the ash (5.0 mg) triggered significant lymph node enlargement without significant changes in the lung at 13 weeks post-treatment (P<0.05). Dose and time independent responses in the anorthite-exposed lung and lymph nodes suggest that a single instillation of 5.0 mg of poorly soluble mineral dust does not induce any change in the lung or lymph nodes. CONCLUSION: The ash produces inflammatory reactions in lymph nodes at 13 weeks post-instillation in rats. These effects are seen much earlier than any inflammatory reaction in the lung. The onset of the lung inflammation is delayed until 49 weeks post-exposure. Despite the high cristobalite content of the ash, there is no evidence of any lung fibrogenic responses.

Five-day inhalation toxicity study of three types of synthetic amorphous silicas in Wistar rats and post-exposure evaluations for up to 3 months.  
[Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Oct;45(10):1856-67. Epub 2007 Apr 14.]
Arts JH, Muijser H, Duistermaat E, Junker K, Kuper CF.
TNO Quality of Life, P.O. Box 360, 3700 AJ Zeist, The Netherlands.

Evidence suggests that short-term animal exposures to synthetic amorphous silicas (SAS) and crystalline silica can provide comparable prediction of toxicity to those of 90-day studies, therefore providing the opportunity to screen these types of substances using short-term rather than 90-day studies. To investigate this hypothesis, the inhalation toxicity of three SAS, precipitated silica Zeosil 45, silica gel Syloid 74, and pyrogenic silica Cab-O-Sil M5 was studied in Wistar rats. Rats were exposed nose-only to concentrations of 1, 5 or 25mg/m(3) of one of the SAS 6h a day for five consecutive days. Positive controls were exposed to 25mg/m(3) crystalline silica (quartz dust), negative controls to clean air. Animals were necropsied the day after the last exposure or 1 or 3 months later. All exposures were tolerated without serious clinical effects, changes in body weight or food intake. Differences in the effects associated with exposure to the three types of SAS were limited and almost exclusively confined to the 1-day post-exposure time point. Silicon levels in tracheobronchial lymph nodes were below the detection limit in all groups at all time points. Silicon was found in the lungs of all high concentration SAS groups 1-day post-exposure, and was cleared 3 months later. Exposure to all three SAS at 25mg/m(3) induced elevations in biomarkers of cytotoxicity in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALf), increases in lung and tracheobronchial lymph node weight and histopathological lung changes 1-day post-exposure. Exposure to all three SAS at 5mg/m(3) induced histopathological changes and changes in BALf only. With all three SAS these effects were transient and, with the exception of slight histopathological lung changes at the higher exposure levels, were reversible during the 3-month recovery period. No adverse changes were observed in animals exposed to any of the SAS at 1mg/m(3). In contrast, with quartz-exposed animals the presence of silicon in the lungs was persistent and toxicological effects differed from those seen with SAS both with regard to the type and severity as well as in the time-response profile. In quartz-exposed animals silicon in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes was below the detection limit but silicon was found in the lungs at comparable levels 0-, 1- and 3-months post-exposure. One-day post-exposure to quartz, elevations in biomarkers of cytotoxicity in BALf, increases in lung and tracheobronchial lymph node weight and histopathological lung changes were minimal. These effects were present at 1-month post-exposure and progressively more severe at 3-months post-exposure. Overall, the results of the current study are similar to those of other published studies that had a 90-day exposure period and both types of studies indicate that the lack of lung clearance is a key factor in the development of silicosis.

In vitro toxicology of respirable Montserrat volcanic ash.
[Occup Environ Med. 2000 Nov;57(11):727-33.]
Wilson MR, Stone V, Cullen RT, Searl A, Maynard RL, Donaldson K.
Biomedicine Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Napier University, 10 Colinton Road, Edinburgh EH10 5DT, Scotland, UK.

OBJECTIVES: In July 1995 the Soufriere Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat began to erupt. Preliminary reports showed that the ash contained a substantial respirable component and a large percentage of the toxic silica polymorph, cristobalite. In this study the cytotoxicity of three respirable Montserrat volcanic ash (MVA) samples was investigated: M1 from a single explosive event, M2 accumulated ash predominantly derived from pyroclastic flows, and M3 from a single pyroclastic flow. These were compared with the relatively inert dust TiO(2) and the known toxic quartz dust, DQ12. METHODS: Surface area of the particles was measured with the Brunauer, Emmet, and Teller (BET) adsorption method and cristobalite content of MVA was determined by x ray diffraction (XRD). After exposure to particles, the metabolic competence of the epithelial cell line A549 was assessed to determine cytotoxic effects. The ability of the particles to induce sheep blood erythrocyte haemolysis was used to assess surface reactivity. RESULTS: Treatment with either MVA, quartz, or titanium dioxide decreased A549 epithelial cell metabolic competence as measured by ability to reduce 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT). On addition of mannitol, the cytotoxic effect was significantly less with M1, quartz, and TiO(2). All MVA samples induced a dose dependent increase in haemolysis, which, although less than the haemolysis induced by quartz, was significantly greater than that induced by TiO(2). Addition of mannitol and superoxide dismutase (SOD) significantly reduced the haemolytic activity only of M1, but not M2 or M3, the samples derived from predominantly pyroclastic flow events. CONCLUSIONS: Neither the cristobalite content nor the surface area of the MVA samples correlated with observed in vitro reactivity. A role for reactive oxygen species could only be shown in the cytotoxicity of M1, which was the only sample derived from a purely explosive event. These results suggest that in general the bioreactivity of MVA samples in vitro is low compared with pure quartz, but that the bioreactivity and mechanisms of biological interaction may vary according to the ash source.

Assessment of the exposure of islanders to ash from the Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat, British West Indies.
[Occup Environ Med. 2002 Aug;59(8):523-31.]
Searl A, Nicholl A, Baxter PJ.
Institute of Occupational Medicine, 8 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU, UK

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat, has been erupting since July 1995 and volcanic ash has fallen on the island throughout most of the eruption. The ash contains substantial quantities of respirable particles and unusually large amounts (15-20%) of the crystalline silica mineral, cristobalite. The purpose of the surveys described here, undertaken between December 1996 and April 2000, was to determine levels of personal exposure of islanders to volcanic ash and cristobalite in order to inform advice on the associated risks to health and the measures required to reduce exposure. METHODS: Surveys of personal exposure to respirable dust and cristobalite were undertaken using cyclone samplers. In addition, direct reading instruments (DUSTTRAK) were used to monitor ambient air concentrations of PM(10) at fixed sites and also to provide information about exposures to airborne particles associated with selected activities. RESULTS: Environmental concentrations of airborne ash have been greatest in the areas where the most ash has been deposited and during dry weather. Individual exposure to airborne ash was related to occupation, with the highest exposures among gardeners, cleaners, roadworkers, and police at roadside checkpoints. During 1997 many of these individuals were exposed to concentrations of cristobalite that exceeded the ACGIH recommended occupational exposure limit. Since the population became confined to the north of the island in October 1997, even those in relatively dusty occupations have received exposures to cristobalite well below this limit. CONCLUSIONS: Most of the 4500 people who have remained on island since the eruption began have not been exposed to sufficiently high concentrations of airborne dust for long enough to be at risk of developing silicosis. However, more than a dozen individuals continued to experience frequent high occupational exposures to volcanic ash, some of whom may have had sufficient exposure to crystalline silica to be at risk of developing mild silicosis. If volcanic activity were to deposit further ash over the occupied areas of the island during the coming years, the risks of silicosis will become more substantial.

Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash.
[Am J Public Health. 1986 Mar;76(3 Suppl):59-65.]
Martin TR, Wehner AP, Butler J.

Shortly after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, a number of laboratories began to investigate the effects of volcanic ash in a variety of experimental systems in attempts to predict effects that might occult in the lungs of humans exposed to volcanic ash. The published results are remarkably consistent, despite the use of non-uniform ash samples and variability in the experimental approaches used. The data indicate that volcanic ash, even in high concentrations, causes little toxicity to lung cells in vitro and in vivo, as compared with effects of free crystalline silica, which is known to be highly fibrogenic. Volcanic ash does not appear to be entirely inert, however, possibly because of low concentrations of free crystalline silica in the ash. The published experimental studies suggest that inhaled volcanic ash is not likely to be harmful to the lungs of healthy humans, but the potential effects of volcanic ash in patients with pre-existing lung diseases are more difficult to ascertain from these studies.

The pulmonary toxicity of an ash sample from the MT. St. Helens Volcano.
[Exp Lung Res. 1981 Nov;2(4):289-301.]
Beck BD, Brain JD, Bohannon DE.

Volcanic ash was collected from the Moses Lake region of Washington State after the 18 May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The ash was tested in a short-term bioassay system using hamsters exposed by intratracheal instillation. One day after exposure the lungs were lavaged and the fluid collected was characterized using several parameters that represent different manifestations of lung injury: (a) in situ phagocytic ability of pulmonary macrophages; (b) the inflammatory response, as shown by polymorphonuclear neutrophil numbers and albumin levels in lung lavage fluid; and (c) release of cytoplasmic and lysosomal enzymes into the cell-free supernatant of lung-lavage fluid. The response to volcanic ash was elevated compared to controls, but was similar to the response to Al2O3, a dust considered to be relatively inert. In contrast, the response to alpha-quartz, a highly toxic fibrogenic dust, was significantly greater than the response to either volcanic ash or Al2O3 for most parameters measured.

Hekla cold springs (Iceland): groundwater mixing with magmatic gases.
[Isotopes Environ Health Stud. 2010 Jun;46(2):180-9.]
Holm NG, Gislason SR, Sturkell E, Torssander P.
Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

We have analysed the chemical and stable isotope compositions of four spring waters situated just northwest of the Hekla volcano, where cold water emerges from the base of the lava flows. The stable isotope ratios of water (H, O), dissolved inorganic carbon (C) and sulphate (S) were used to determine whether magmatic gases are mixing with the groundwater. The waters can be characterised as Na-HCO(3) type. The results show that deep-seated gases mix with groundwater, substantially affecting the concentration of solutes and the isotopic composition of dissolved carbon and sulphate.

Volcano remote sensing with ground-based spectroscopy.
[Philos Transact A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2005 Dec 15;363(1837):2915-29.]
McGonigle AJ.
University of Sheffield Department of Geography Winter Street, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.

The chemical compositions and emission rates of volcanic gases carry important information about underground magmatic and hydrothermal conditions, with application in eruption forecasting. Volcanic plumes are also studied because of their impacts upon the atmosphere, climate and human health. Remote sensing techniques are being increasingly used in this field because they provide real-time data and can be applied at safe distances from the target, even throughout violent eruptive episodes. However, notwithstanding the many scientific insights into volcanic behaviour already achieved with these approaches, technological limitations have placed firm restrictions upon the utility of the acquired data. For instance, volcanic SO(2) emission rate measurements are typically inaccurate (errors can be greater than 100%) and have poor time resolution (ca once per week). Volcanic gas geochemistry is currently being revolutionized by the recent implementation of a new generation of remote sensing tools, which are overcoming the above limitations and are providing degassing data of unprecedented quality. In this article, I review this field at this exciting point of transition, covering the techniques used and the insights thereby obtained, and I speculate upon the breakthroughs that are now tantalizingly close.

soil sample - lava composition

Determination of trace elements in volcanic rock samples collected from cenozoic lava eruption sites using LIBS.  [J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2009 Apr;44(5):528-35.]
Gondal MA, Nasr MM, Ahmed Z, Yamani ZH.
Laser Research Laboratory, Physics Department, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Trace elements of environmental significance present in the volcanic rock samples collected from sites of the Cenozoic era flood basalt flows and eruptions were detected using locally developed laser-induced breakdown spectrometer. For spectro-chemical analysis of these samples, the plasma was generated by focusing a pulsed Nd: YAG laser radiation at 1064 nm wavelength on the target rock samples. These samples were collected from four widely separated locations surrounding the volcanic eruption sites belonging to the Harrat Hutaymah volcanic field in the vicinity of Taba town, situated to the east of Hail city of northern Saudi Arabia. These samples represent the scoria basalt lava flows as well as a large tuff-ring crater and it contains xenoliths. These flows occur widespread over the Earth's surface in this region, and their contained xenoliths are brought up from depths of a few tens of kilometers. This volcanic field has received much less attention in the previous geological studies; and consequently, its effects on the environment are not well defined. The concentration of different elements of environmental significance like Cr, Pb, Mn, Cd, Sr and other trace metals like Cu, Al, Ca, Mg, Zn, Ti and Fe in these rock samples were determined by spectral analysis. Parametric dependence for improvement of LIBS sensitivity for detection of these elements was also carried out. The highest concentration detected of environmentally significant elements like Cr, Mn, Pb, Sr and Ni are 1910, 1399, 90.5, 12412 and 461.5 ppm, respectively in four different lava samples which are considered to be much higher than the safe permissible limits. The LIBS results were compared with the results obtained using other analytical techniques such as the inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES).

volcano gas composition

New geochemical insights into volcanic degassing.
[Philos Transact A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2008 Dec 28;366(1885):4559-79.]
Edmonds M.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK.

Magma degassing plays a fundamental role in controlling the style of volcanic eruptions. Whether a volcanic eruption is explosive, or effusive, is of crucial importance to approximately 500 million people living in the shadow of hazardous volcanoes worldwide. Studies of how gases exsolve and separate from magma prior to and during eruptions have been given new impetus by the emergence of more accurate and automated methods to measure volatile species both as volcanic gases and dissolved in the glasses of erupted products. The composition of volcanic gases is dependent on a number of factors, the most important being magma composition and the depth of gas-melt segregation prior to eruption; this latter parameter has proved difficult to constrain in the past, yet is arguably the most critical for controlling eruptive style. Spectroscopic techniques operating in the infrared have proved to be of great value in measuring the composition of gases at high temporal resolution. Such methods, when used in tandem with microanalytical geochemical investigations of erupted products, are leading to better constraints on the depth at which gases are generated and separated from magma. A number of recent studies have focused on transitions between explosive and effusive activity and have led to a better understanding of gas-melt segregation at basaltic volcanoes. Other studies have focused on degassing during intermediate and silicic eruptions. Important new results include the recognition of fluxing by deep-derived gases, which buffer the amount of dissolved volatiles in the melt at shallow depths, and the observation of gas flow up permeable conduit wall shear zones, which may be the primary mechanism for gas loss at the cusp of the most explosive and unpredictable volcanic eruptions. In this paper, I review current and future directions in the field of geochemical studies of volcanic degassing processes and illustrate how the new insights are beginning to change the way in which we understand and classify volcanic eruptions.

destruction of ozone

Atmospheric chemistry in volcanic plumes.
von Glasow R.
[Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 13;107(15):6594-9. Epub 2010 Apr 5.]
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom. R.

Recent field observations have shown that the atmospheric plumes of quiescently degassing volcanoes are chemically very active, pointing to the role of chemical cycles involving halogen species and heterogeneous reactions on aerosol particles that have previously been unexplored for this type of volcanic plumes. Key features of these measurements can be reproduced by numerical models such as the one employed in this study. The model shows sustained high levels of reactive bromine in the plume, leading to extensive ozone destruction, that, depending on plume dispersal, can be maintained for several days. The very high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the volcanic plume reduces the lifetime of the OH radical drastically, so that it is virtually absent in the volcanic plume. This would imply an increased lifetime of methane in volcanic plumes, unless reactive chlorine chemistry in the plume is strong enough to offset the lack of OH chemistry. A further effect of bromine chemistry in addition to ozone destruction shown by the model studies presented here, is the oxidation of mercury. This relates to mercury that has been coemitted with bromine from the volcano but also to background atmospheric mercury. The rapid oxidation of mercury implies a drastically reduced atmospheric lifetime of mercury so that the contribution of volcanic mercury to the atmospheric background might be less than previously thought. However, the implications, especially health and environmental effects due to deposition, might be substantial and warrant further studies, especially field measurements to test this hypothesis.

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Detection of bromine monoxide in a volcanic plume. [Nature. 2003 May 15;423(6937):273-6.]
Bobrowski N, Hönninger G, Galle B, Platt U.
Institut für Umweltphysik, University of Heidelberg, INF 229, D69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

The emission of volcanic gases usually precedes eruptive activity, providing both a warning signal and an indication of the nature of the lava soon to be erupted. Additionally, volcanic emissions are a significant source of gases and particles to the atmosphere, influencing tropospheric and stratospheric trace-gas budgets. Despite some halogen species having been measured in volcanic plumes (mainly HCl and HF), little is known about bromine compounds and, in particular, gas-phase reactive bromine species. Such species are especially important in the stratosphere, as reactive bromine-despite being two orders of magnitude less abundant than chlorine-accounts for about one-third of halogen-catalysed ozone depletion. In the troposphere, bromine-catalysed complete ozone destruction has been observed to occur regularly during spring in the polar boundary layers as well as in the troposphere above the Dead Sea basin. Here we report observations of BrO and SO2 abundances in the plume of the Soufrière Hills volcano (Montserrat) in May 2002 by ground-based multi-axis differential optical absorption spectroscopy. Our estimate of BrO emission leads us to conclude that local ozone depletion and small ozone 'holes' may occur in the vicinity of active volcanoes, and that the amount of bromine emitted from volcanoes might be sufficiently large to play a role not only in the stratosphere, but also in tropospheric chemistry.

Volcanism and the atmosphere: the potential role of the atmosphere in unlocking the reactivity of volcanic emissions. [Philos Transact A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2008 Dec 28;366(1885):4581-95.]
Mather TA.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PR, UK.

Recent measurements of reactive trace gas species in volcanic plumes have offered intriguing hints at the chemistry occurring in the hot environment at volcanic vents. This has led to the recognition that volcanic vents should be regarded not only as passive sources of volcanic gases to the atmosphere, but also as 'reaction vessels' that unlock otherwise inert volcanic and atmospheric gas species. The atypical conditions created by the mixing of ambient atmosphere with the hot gases emitted from magma give rise to elevated concentrations of otherwise unexpected chemical compounds. Rapid cooling of this mixture allows these species to persist into the environment, with important consequences for gas plume chemistry and impacts. This paper discusses some examples of the implications of these high-temperature interactions in terms of nitrogen, halogen and sulphur chemistry, and their consequences in terms of the global fixed nitrogen budget, volcanically induced ozone destruction and particle fluxes to the atmosphere. Volcanically initiated atmospheric chemistry was likely to have been particularly important before biological (and latterly anthropogenic) processes started to dominate many geochemical cycles, with important consequences in terms of the evolution of the nitrogen cycle and the role of particles in modulating the Earth's climate.

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