Hawaii Officials Release Air Quality Update on Volcano

The eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii Island is continuing, prompting Hawaii tourism officials to issue an update regarding “vog” -- or hazy air pollution caused by volcanic emissions -- and its effect on public health. 

In its latest update on the situation, the Hawaii Department of Health noted that, as the eruption continues and southerly winds occasionally prevail, vog conditions and sulfur dioxide in the air may increase and fluctuate in various parts of the state. 

“While these intermittent conditions do not pose a public health threat in areas beyond the evacuation zone, they have raised concerns about respiratory health and questions about precautionary actions,” the Department of Health said. 

As a result, the department has created the Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard at www.ivhhn.org/vog/ to pull together the most comprehensive and up-to-date online information regarding vog and sulfur dioxide from volcanic activity in Hawaii. The dashboard includes information on vog, as well as the latest wind forecasts. 

The department also said that it is working on positioning additional sulfur dioxide and particulate monitoring equipment around the eruption site. Once the equipment is up and running, air quality data from the site will become available online for the public. 

“Hawaii residents and visitors are advised to be prepared and aware of the surrounding conditions, and how they feel or may react to vog in the air,” the department said. In the event of vog conditions, here are the precautionary measures to take:

  • Reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing. Avoiding outdoor activity and exercise during vog conditions can reduce exposure and minimize health risks. This is especially important for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic lung and heart disease. 
  • Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If an air conditioner is used, set it to recirculate. 
  • Always keep medications on hand and readily available. Daily prescribed medications, should be taken on schedule and may provide protection from the effects of sulfur dioxide. 
  • Contact a doctor as soon as possible if any health problems develop. 
  • Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. 
  • Have family emergency plans prepared and ready. 
  • Heed warnings by county and state emergency management officials. 

Air Travel Update

The eruption has prompted several airlines to issue flight waivers for travelers flying to, from or through Hilo and Kona

Hawaiian Airlines reports it is allowing guests scheduled to fly through May 13 to rebook through May 20. In addition, for changes made to new flights on or before May 20, any fare differences will be waived provided the change is made in the same class of service and there is no change in origin or destination city. For new flights after May 20, the airline will waive the change fee but not the difference in fare.

Delta is allowing travelers scheduled to fly through May 13 to rebook through May 16, with the new ticket to be reissued on or before that date. 

American Airlines is also waiving the change fee for customers scheduled to fly through May 13, with rebooked travel to take place through May 16 between the same city pair in the same cabin (or pay the difference).

Finally, United Airlines is allowing customers scheduled to fly through May 13 to rebook through May 16 between the same city pair in the originally ticketed cabin.

An interactive map of the eruption area is available here.

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