Experts remind public to limit exposure in areas with high levels of sulfur dioxide
Dangerous gases emitted from ongoing volcanic activity on the Big island continues to be a concern.
HONOLULU (KITV) - Dangerous gases linked to the lava outbreaks remain a major concern on the Big Island. The Hawaii Fire Department reported unhealthy air quality around new fissures in and around Lanipuna Garden.
High levels of sulfur dioxide gas is still being emitted from fissures, although there was a pause in lava flow on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's getting into people's lungs and causing inflammation," State Senator Josh Green said.
Sen. Green, who is also a Hawaii Island emergency room doctor, has been volunteering in Pahoa over the past couple of weeks. He tells Island News he's treated patients, some which he says suffered from too much exposure to Sulfur Dioxide gas.
"You can feel it in your face first .. in your mucus membranes and nose. If it gets high enough, you'll feel a headache. If it gets really high, people start to have lung irritation, coughing, shortness of breath," Green said.
Dr. Green says the treatment is symptomatic and can consist of using inhalers, being put on oxygen, or prescribed medication to help open up the airways.
"I've seen people get better in two to three hours. I've seen people need two or three days in the hospital," Dr. Green added.
Sulfur Dioxide is especially dangerous for children, elderly and those with respiratory problems. According to Dr. Green, the gas can be catastrophic for heavy smokers or people with Emphysema or COPD.
"The worry about wearing masks. I mean it'll help, but people might get a false sense of security and stay there and at these levels, that sometimes blow you know... It's very dangerous," Dr. Elizabeth Tam of John A. Burns School of Medicine said. "Even if at the moment might be okay, a shift in wind and they'll pull that plume right towards you,"
With on-going volcanic activity and shifting trade winds, Dr. Tam advises the public to take extra precaution, be prepared to evacuate at short notice, and minimize exposure by staying out of the lava zone and indoors.