Kilauea volcano has produced, on average, at least 1,800 tons per day of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions since 1983. Key to this proposal, emissions increased dramatically in 2008, resulting in episodic emissions of more than 5,000 tons per day. Combined with wind patterns, towering mountains, and variations in humidity and precipitation, the emissions create a natural experiment in which some communities are spared exposure to SO2 and acid aerosols whereas others are frequently exposed to this volcanic air pollution, or """"""""vog."""""""" In 2001, Hawaii Island community researchers and academic partners had begun an environmental characterization of SO2, fine particulate matter, and acid particulate matter in 5 island communities. This research program, the Hawaii Island Children's Lung Assessment Scientific Study (HICLASS), also began a longitudinal, school-based study of children, to discern the long-term respiratory effects of chronic vog exposure and other environmental and host factors. The dramatic increase in 2008 of emissions from Kilauea's summit as well as its East Rift Zone provided an opportunity to study more acute effects of episodic exposure in 2 ways. First, in Fall 2008, HICLASS researchers started to recruit 140 students at Volcano School of Arts and Sciences, located just 2 miles from the summit crater and subject to episodic SO2 concentrations in excess of 1000 ppb. In addition, 866 of the original island-wide HICLASS participants remained in the study between September 2007 and May 2009, providing symptom and lung function data from just before and during the increased emissions period. Retroactive modeling of the dispersion of the vog would allow analysis of this cohort's health data for associations of vog exposure and acute or sub-acute changes in respiratory symptoms and function. We found, however, that crucial data, including accurate estimates of volcano emissions volume and velocity, were lacking to inform our modeling efforts. Collaboration with scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) can provide this vital information, by facilitating analysis of spectral measurements of the vog plume during the high emissive phase. This vital emissions data would then allow improved modeling of the air pollution over Hawaii Island and analysis of association between volcanic air pollution and acute, intermediate, and long-term health effects. We propose a series of studies that will strengthen community health research capacity, facilitate community partnerships with academic and government scientists, and increase our understanding and management of the effects of volcanic air pollution and other environmental risks.

Public Health Relevance

Tam, Elizabeth, K): Project Narrative Community researchers learn how sulfur dioxide released from Kilauea volcano is measured and what affects its dispersal to different communities on the island of Hawaii. They will measure and report concentrations of sulfur dioxide and acid aerosols in selected neighborhoods. By using questionnaires about environmental exposures and personal and family health and by measuring lung function, the community will learn how volcanic air pollution and other factors influence respiratory health

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZEH1-FXR (02))
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University of Hawaii
Internal Medicine/Medicine
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United States
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