'Vog,' or volcanic air, is health concern

Oct. 22, 2010 at 8:13 PM
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HILO, Hawaii, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- "Vog," or volcanic air pollution, from the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's big island contains sulfur dioxide that is a health concern, researchers say.

Bernadette Longo, assistant professor at the University of Nevada's Orvis School of Nursing, compared local health clinic records for the 14 weeks prior to the March 2008 Kilauea Volcano eruption with those from March through June 2008, when the volcano's sulfur dioxide emissions tripled.

The study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found three times as many headaches and twice as many severe sore throats after the increase in volcanic emissions.

The study also found a 56 percent increase in people reporting coughs, and a six-fold increase in the odds of having acute airway problems that may require breathing treatments or hospital emergency care.

"The results suggest that children and adolescents are likely to be the most sensitive to SO2 exposure, which is especially concerning," Longo said in a statement.

"Children tend to be mouth-breathers. When we breathe through our noses, our noses act as filters, removing about 85 percent of the harmful substances before they can reach our respiratory system and lungs, but when children breathe mostly through their mouths, they don't get the benefit of the nose's filtering system."

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