On-going volcanic activity at the summit and east rift zone of Kīlauea volcano, on Hawaiʻi Island, creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors. At the levels of volcanic emissions occurring over recent years, individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions are the primary group at risk of experiencing health effects from vog exposures, but healthy people may also experience symptoms.
It is very important to listen to your own body and take measures to protect yourself if you feel your health is being affected by vog. The 'sensitive groups' most likely to experience health impacts include:
SO2: Physically-active asthmatics are most likely to experience serious health effects from SO2. Even short-term exposures can cause narrowing of the airways (bronchoconstriction), causing asthma symptoms. Potential health effects increase as SO2 levels and/or breathing rates increase. At SO2 levels considered ‘unhealthy’ for the general population, as defined by the HDOH and EPA, even non-asthmatics may experience breathing difficulties. Short-term SO2 exposure is connected to increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in the ‘sensitive groups’. No one knows the long-term health effects of exposure to volcanic SO2.
Short-term health symptoms include:
PM2.5: Both long- and short-term particle exposures have been linked to various health problems. High levels of particle pollution are linked to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and even to death from existing heart or lung disease. Low levels of PM2.5 are not considered as problematic for asthmatics as low levels of SO2 gas. See https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=particle_health.index for more information. Particle pollution can cause temporary health symptoms such as:
Further information about the health effects of vog:
Interagency fact sheet about the health effects of vog.
Tam et al. 2016
Latest academic article about effects of vog on Hawai'i school children. For other articles, please see Scientific Literature page.
Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH)
Suggested actions/activities at specific SO2 concentrations/color codes