Continue state studies on vog’s potential harm
Studies indicate that vog from Kilauea volcano has not resulted in higher asthma rates on the Big Island.
Big Island residents can breathe a little easier because of preliminary studies indicating that emissions from Kilauea volcano caused no serious harm to their respiratory systems. More comprehensive studies are needed to determine any long-term effects.
A study completed in 2005 found 8- to 10-year-old children in the northern and eastern parts of the Big Island had higher asthma rates than those in the southern and western parts of the island, which had higher levels of vog, the haze caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and ash. (It found a correlation between asthma and children who live in homes where people smoke.)
A 2003 study conducted by the state Department of Health found that vog had no effect on the lung functions of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park workers who exhaled into a measuring device three times in the morning and again in the afternoon.
However, the vog from those years was not as dense as the haze that made national news last month. Before a new vent at Halemaumau Crater on March 12, Kilauea summit emitted 200 tons of sulfur dioxide a day. The opening of the vent caused the releases to increase by 10 times.
A state House committee has been formed to look at the effects of vog on health, agriculture, water quality, animals, wildlife and tourism. Scientific studies are needed to determine the effects in all those categories except tourism, which appears to have been given a pass, according to visitor numbers.
Residents and tourists with respiratory problems were urged to try to remain indoors or perform outdoor activities in the early morning. This is common sense in the absence of solid evidence of medical repercussions.
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