New informational products about the health hazards of volcanic air pollution known as “vog,” are available through a new interagency partnership.
The products include a booklet of frequently asked questions, a brochure and poster about protecting yourself during vog episodes and a web-based “dashboard” that provides comprehensive links to a wide range of vog resources, including vog forecasts and air-quality information.
Communities downwind from Kīlauea Volcano’s active vents frequently experience vog as a visible haze or as a sulfurous smell or taste. People exposed to vog report a variety of symptoms, such as eye irritation, coughing, wheezing, sore throats and headaches. The new products were co-developed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists Tamar Elias and Jeff Sutton at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, John Peard and other officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, and Claire Horwell from Durham University in the United Kingdom, with participation by Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and other agencies.
Peard, with Hawaii DOH said, “The diverse partnership has allowed us to develop new, consistent products that more fully address the needs of the community.”
“The products offer advice on vog protection measures, such as staying indoors, limiting physical activity, and staying hydrated when vog levels are high. Providing relevant, up-to-date information to a population living with decades of an ongoing volcanic eruption may help people to better cope with the frequent vog conditions,” said Horwell.
The new, mobile-friendly vog dashboard is hosted by the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, a clearinghouse for information on the health impacts of volcanic eruptions. All of the new Hawaiʻi vog products are available online, and are accessible through the dashboard.
Vog, the pollution formed from acidic gases and particles released by active volcanoes, is composed primarily of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas and its oxidation products, such as sulfate aerosol. Sulfur dioxide from Kīlauea Volcano, now in its 34th year of nearly continuous eruption, leads to the vog that challenges communities, agriculture, and infrastructure on the Island of Hawai‘i and across the state. Scientists at USGS HVO regularly monitor the quantity and composition of gases released from Kīlauea. Among other things, HVO data are used as input for vog models that forecast the volcanic plume dispersion and vog locations.
Horwell’s previous study in 2015, investigated how Hawaiian communities perceive vog, how they protect themselves, and their preferences for receiving advice. The results from the study support the need for consistent online advice from all federal, state and local agencies; increased access to web- and non-web-based information on vog exposure and protection; and updated guidance on how to access resources about vog. HVO’s long involvement in vog studies, coupled with the community studies about perception and needs, led to the development of the new vog informational products.