Hawaii island residents exposed to the high levels of dangerous gas detected in areas of volcanic activity are two times more likely to develop acute respiratory disease.
The potential health hazards resulted in the immediate evacuation of all Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivision residents due to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, particularly dangerous to the elderly, young people and those with respiratory issues. A warning was sent out by the Department of Defense Hawaii Emergency Management Agency early this morning.
“The greatest worry is for people who have underlying lung disease like emphysema or COPD. Those individuals are at the highest risk,” said Sen. Josh Green (D, Kona-Kau), a Big Island emergency doctor.
Emphysema is a condition that causes damage to the lung air sacs and COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, results in obstructed airflow from the lungs.
“We haven’t experienced anything this potentially damaging in decades so this is the time when we really have to pay attention to (the state Department of Health) and their recommendations,” he said, adding that people should stay out of the affected region, stay indoors or wear air masks. “People with bad lungs can get much worse. At very high sulfur dioxide levels it’s a risk for everyone.”
People exposed to sulfur dioxide can also experience higher rates of headaches, as well as irritation in the eyes and throat. Common symptoms include sinus infections and upper respiratory infections like bronchitis.
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