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Vog gives Hawaii island a failing grade for air quality

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:10 p.m. HST, Apr 24, 2013

Hawaii island received a failing grade for particle pollution in the air, according to an American Lung Association report card released today.

But that’s because one of the island’s main sources of particle pollution is volcanic smog, commonly known as “vog.”

“The trade winds generally blow the vog off-shore in a way that still makes the Big Island a beautiful place,” said Steve Businger, a University of Hawaii meteorology professor and vog expert. “Unfortunately it’s not something we can control.”

The association’s “State of the Air 2013” report card gave Hawaii County an “F” despite a decrease in the number of days with unhealthy particle pollution — from 23.5 days in 2012 to 12.5 this year. Particle pollution is a mix of very tiny solid and liquid particles in the air. If they’re small enough, they can stay in the air for long periods, Businger said.

Honolulu is the only county in the state that collected data on ozone levels. There were no days of unhealthy levels of ozone, or smog, which is the most widespread air pollutant.

Maui County received healthy grades for particle pollution. According to the report, figures available for Kauai County were incomplete.

Volcanic gas emissions from the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano create vog. If the trade winds stop or if wind blows in the opposite direction, other islands including Oahu, Maui and Kauai, experience the condition. Kilauea has been in constant eruption since Jan. 3, 1983.  

Still, people should be assured that Hawaii’s overall air quality is clean, Businger said.

“I don’t think people need to worry unless they happen to be very sensitive to vog,” Businger said. He added that on days when vog levels are high, people should stay indoors, limit outdoor exercise and drink plenty of fluids.

The annual report grades counties nationwide for ozone and particle pollution levels. Cheyenne, Wyo., ranked No. 1 in the top 25 cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution. Bakersfield-Delano in California ranked the worst for particle pollution, while California’s Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside region had the worst ozone ranking.

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HealthyandHappy wrote:
What are the remedies? Could we pass a law against this. Should we fine the National Park service?
on April 24,2013 | 01:54PM
hanoz808 wrote:
why don't we just ask the volcano to stop!
on April 24,2013 | 02:05PM
roninsensei wrote:
Poor planning by the State's politicians, again!!
on April 24,2013 | 02:18PM
808comp wrote:
You kinda have to laugh to yourself when you see this kinds of report.
on April 24,2013 | 02:24PM
Naloboy wrote:
VOG...Hawaii's dirty little secret. Thousands of Isle residents are profoundly affected by VOG at much lower numbers than the Lung Assn or certainly the government (fed, state, local) will ever tell you. The National Weather Svc doesn't even use the word, VOG....instead they call it Haze. No we can't shut off the volcano or shift the wind but we can do an enormously better job of educating people about how to protect themselves, providing the public with comprehensive and statewide real-time air quality numbers and not being afraid to acknowledge the problem without fear of scaring off tourists. Right now there are NO air quality monitors anywhere on Windward Oahu or the North Shore or the Waianae area. Yet the DOH says it can't afford to install the right equipment or to educate people on how to interpret the air quality data. This is a sham and a shame that is seriously affecting the health of thousands of islanders. Yet nothing is being done to improve the situation.
on April 24,2013 | 02:34PM
holokanaka wrote:
everyone has options. move and/or don't move here.
on April 24,2013 | 08:27PM
entrkn wrote:
... and all our weather "experts" and tourist related entities are far more interested in the surf conditions than Hawaiian VOG, even though it is genuinely dangerous to everyone with any kind of respiratory issues, like me. I wish the VOG would go away, but until it actually does, we need to take it seriously and alert it accordingly.
on April 24,2013 | 09:59PM
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