(BIVN) – The head of a pertinent study on the effects of Kilauea activity on Hawaii Island schoolchildren, in particular vog, recently shared her thoughts on the current eruptive activity on the lower East Rift Zone.
“Let me tell you, ground zero is very different from anything we studied,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tam, Pulmonologist and Chair of Medicine at the University of Hawai’i (UH) John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
Tam headed the ten year study conducted by the UH JABSOM and collaborators – including Hawaii Island residents, the US Geological Survey, UH earth scientists, the Hawaii State Department of Health and researchers at Harvard University public health and the University of Southern California. The research was published in 2016 and can be accessed at this link.
Right now at “ground zero” – or the Leilani Estates subdivision where new volcanic fissures erupted in May – are emitting “extraordinarily high levels of sulfur dioxide,” Dr. Tam said.
“I’m told that, periodically, they’re hitting 100 parts per million,” Dr. Tam said. “When we were studying the kids, 1 part per million… it never happened. It didn’t go to 1 part per million when we are studying the children. So right now, in Leilani Estates, it’s hundreds to almost thousandfold higher than anything we studied with these children.”
“That’s why we tell people, you know – I don’t think a mask is gonna help,” Dr. Tam said, adding that with the masks “people might get a false sense of security and stay there. And at these levels that sometimes blow where people are in Leilani Estates, it’s very dangerous.”
Dr. Tam said its also important to remember “the lava is causing homes to burn, and vegetation, so you not only have vog, you have smoke. And when homes burn, there’s plastics, rubber, all kinds of things. So it’s it’s a toxic mix that is much more than just the volcanic emissions.”