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Remain vigilant on air quality, health officials advise public

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / crussell@staradvertiser.com

    The on-going Kilauea eruption, as seen from a helicopter this morning, is spewing sulfur dioxide and other gases into the air. The greatest danger from the gases is close to the eruption zone but authorities advise the people statewide —especially those with respiratory problems — to be vigilent.

Authorities are advising residents and visitors to beware of vog and sulfur dioxide in the air, which can cause respiratory problems even beyond the evacuation zone at Kilauea volcano on Hawaii island.

“While we are all watching the updates on the Kilauea eruptions, it’s important to be vigilant to your health and safety no matter where you live in Hawaii,” said Kahala Howser, executive director of the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “We’ve been fortunate to have trade winds push the vog out to sea the past few days, but be aware of the changes that could potentially affect the entire state.”

State health officials also have created a vog information website to keep residents informed on the toxic sulfur dioxide levels from the volcanic eruption on Hawaii island.

Forecast brings possibility of acid rain to Big Island, vog to other isles

The state Department of Health said in a news release today that vog and sulfur dioxide are not threatening public health beyond the evacuation zone. But it encouraged people to remain vigilant and monitor the Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard at www.ivhhn.org/vog/ for up-to-date information online.

“As the lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii Island continues and southerly winds occasionally prevail, vog conditions and the presence of sulfur dioxide in the air may increase and fluctuate in various areas of the state,” the Health Department said in the release. It intends to install more monitoring equipment for sulfur dioxide and particulates around the eruption site and will make the data available online.

The Vog Information Dashboard gives information on the health effects of vog, how to protect yourself, vog and wind forecasts as well as air quality.

A community forum for questions and discussion, called Vog Talk, is also available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/VogTalk/about/.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide and air pollutants can trigger coughing, bronchitis and asthma attacks. Sulfur dioxide’s effects are felt quickly and also include irritation to the nose, throat and airways, wheezing, shortness of breath and a tight feeling around the chest.

”With the elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, it’s particularly important to monitor your exposure and that of those around you,” Howser said. “Be safe.”

When vog appears, the Health Department and Lung Association offer the following tips:

>> Avoid outdoor activity and exercise.

>> Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If using air conditioning, set it to recirculate.

>> If your breathing is affected, get medical help right away.

>> Obtain and pack all needed medications ahead of time.

>> Dust masks do not help, so do what it takes to avoid exposure.

>> Follow evacuation orders.

>> Drink plenty of fluids.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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