National News

Another concern from volcanic eruptions: Sulfur Dioxide

Posted May 5, 2018 4:22 p.m. EDT

— Lava is not the only threat on Hawaii Island. There's also a concern about potentially life-threatening gas, seeping in Puna's Leilani Estates.

The recent activity in the area of Leilani Estates has resulted in high concentration of Sulfur Dioxide. The odor is similar to rotten eggs.

"It's a deadly gas, especially if it's high concentration," Lacey Holland, University of Hawaii said.

Hawaii Fire Department reports extremely dangerous conditions in the evacuation area.

Due to high levels of Sulfur Dioxide, it's a component you find in vog, but usually in lower concentrations.

"Trying to avoid exposure is the most important thing," Dr. Jeffrey Kam, head of allergy and immunology at Straub Medical Center said.

Kam warns that exposure to the dangerous gas can irritate the skin, eyes, nose throat and lungs and high concentrations of it may also affect lung function, worsen asthma attacks and existing heart disease for those most vulnerable. That includes the elderly, children and people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

"Saline wash is very important. You can wash your nose out, drink plenty of water, stay hydrated... You can get these filter mask, don't get the cheapy kind, get the m95, the regulgar mask you get a Long's aren't going to protect you from the vog," Kam said.

Medical experts say the chances of being affected increase with the length of time you are outside so remain indoors. If possible, turn on a air conditioner or air purifier.

"With the new fissures that's happening, there might be more vog than usual. So far, the model shows that it's taking most of the vog out to the ocean," Holland said.

The latest forecast models shows vog is heading in the southwest towards Kona but that could change depending on the winds.

High levels of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere mixed with any rainfall can cause acid rain. If that does happen, stay indoors and once again, avoid exposure. In the event you do come into contact with acid rain, wash it off as soon as possible.

You can also track vog and sulfur dioxide online.