Study highlights health risks for exposure to sulfur pollution
People exposed to sulfur pollution from Kilauea volcano report higher rates of sore throats, runny noses and coughs, according to a new study.
The study of 335 people also found faster pulse rates and higher blood pressure among exposed groups, said Bernadette Longo, one of the authors of the study and a professor of nursing at the University of Nevada at Reno.
Elevated sulfur dioxide levels from the volcano forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the second straight day yesterday.
Hawaii health officials counseled residents who have respiratory conditions such as asthma or are exposed to sulfur pollution for prolonged periods to take precautions. They should stay indoors and use air conditioners, not smoke, drink warm fluids to loosen mucus and limit physical exertion.
The Department of Health also recommends people keep an adequate supply of any medication they are taking on hand. Health officials say people should contact their physicians if they develop any respiratory problems.
"I'm really concerned that parents of asthmatic children are vigilant," said Beth-Ann Kozlovich, director of development for the American Lung Association of Hawaii.
Longo's study, which was conducted in 2004 and released in February, included residents living in two areas of the Big Island -- one exposed to sulfur pollution in the Kau District and an unexposed group in Hawi.
Longo said her work confirms the findings of other research about sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.
Longo said she now wants to work with clinicians in the area to promote good health among residents by encouraging them to take their medications and helping them quit smoking, both of which she said can affect blood pressure.