Volcanic smog (vog) is created when sulfur dioxide and other gases released from a volcano react with oxygen, moisture, dust, and sunlight in the atmosphere.
Volcanic smog can irritate the lungs and worsen existing lung problems.
Volcanoes release plumes of ash, dust, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other harmful gases into the air. These chemicals (the most harmful of which is sulfur dioxide) react with oxygen, moisture, and sunlight in the atmosphere to form a type of air pollution called volcanic smog (vog).
Volcanic smog contains a mixture of gases and highly acidic aerosols (tiny particles and droplets), mainly sulfuric acid and other sulfur-related compounds. These aerosols are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs.
When people breathe in vog, it irritates the lungs and mucus membranes, and it can affect lung function. Volcanic smog is also thought to interfere with the normal functioning of the immune system.
The acidic particles in vog can worsen the following lung conditions:
Children and people with circulation problems are also more likely to feel the effects of volcanic smog.
Symptoms of volcanic smog exposure include:
If you have breathing problems, take the following measures to prevent the respiratory effects of volcanic smog:
If your asthma or COPD symptoms suddenly get worse, try using your rescue inhaler. If your symptoms don't improve, call 911 or the emergency number immediately, or have someone take you to the emergency room.
Call your health care provider if you:
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Naumova EN. Emergency room visits for respiratory conditions in children increased after Guagua Pichincha volcanic eruptions in April 2000 in Quito, Ecuador observational study: time series analysis. Environ Health. 2007;6:21.
Volcanic Air Pollution -- A Hazard in Hawai'i. U.S. Geological Survey. Last updated October 2004. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 169-197. Accessed April 22, 2012.
Updated by: Doug C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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