Hawaiians Could Face These Horrifying Health Risks Following the Big Island’s Deadly Volcanic Eruptions

The Hawaiian volcanoes erupting are an act of wonderment. Many people like to observe the fissures and flows move off the mountain and who could blame them; the beauty of that power is mesmerizing. The problem is that a lot of people don’t know the dangers around a volcano. You don’t have to fall in one for it to hurt or kill you.

Here are all of the horrifying health risks following volcanic eruptions and a few ways you can protect yourself on page 6. We have to say, No. 5 is a terrifying way to go out.

1. Ash clouds

Hundreds Forced To Evacuate After Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts

Volcanic ash can pose a serious health threat. | U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images

When an eruption happens, it can spew out hundreds of metric tons of volcanic ash. This ash is mostly finely ground silica and that’s basically tiny shards of glass. The fine silica glass can cause a myriad of lung conditions like severe bronchitic symptoms. After heavy exposure, silicosis can occur which is an ailment of chronic scaring in your lung tissue.

In an indirect way, the ash can still kill you. The ash falls just like snow, however, it’s density is much greater. Roofs collapse under the sheer weight and can trap or crush people to death. This also goes for any infrastructure in the surrounding area like bridges.

Next: That silica in the ash cloud also produces a dangerous amount of charge.

2. Volcanic lightning

View from the Comala community, Colima State, Mexico, on January 19, 2017 of the Volcano of Fire in eruption.

It looks totally epic — but still, it’s concerning for the community. | Sergio Velasco Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

Lightning is far more dangerous than you would imagine. Up to 24,000 people are killed each year on the planet from lightning strikes. Up to an additional 240,000 people are injured by lightning strikes per anum. The numbers are hard to nail down due to an inconsistency of reporting.

However, for a volcano, the lightning gets much more dangerous. The ash spewing from a volcano is already electrically charged from the magma fragmenting. Then it gets supercharged through the turbulence and friction in the ash cloud. This can result in hundreds of lightning strikes in a short period of time. That only increases the risk of being struck.

Next: If you’re far away from the ash cloud, you still have to worry about this sneaky danger.

3. Deadly smog

Geologist surveys lava during a volcanic eruption

Volcanos can severely impact your lungs. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Better known as volcanic fog or vog, volcanoes spew out a mess of different chemicals, mostly sulfur dioxide. The vog tends to gather itself in low lying valleys and likes to linger. Inhaling the vog can wreak havoc on the lungs. The USGS says that the vog “can induce asthma attacks, especially in adolescents, and can also impede the ability of the upper respiratory tract to remove other potentially harmful particles.”

Next: That sulfur dioxide can also indirectly get you in the most sinister of ways. 

4. Acid rain

Woodland area of Hawaii

Acid rain doesn’t do what you think it does — but it can still be harmful. | GeorgeBurba/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you are imagining acid rain melting your skin and you turning into the wicked witch of the west, then you have an amazing imagination. Acid rain won’t do that. In fact, you can be perfectly fine walking around in the acid rain or swimming in an acid rain lake according to the EPA.

The actual health risk comes from its corrosive nature. Acid rain can rust metals including water pipes. If acid rain gets into your water supply and you drink the water, you could be consuming dangerous metal particulates that will cause you serious health risks.

Next: If the air doesn’t get you then the ground will … and not in the way you think.

5. Steam-powered explosions

Eruptive activity from the Kilauea volcano

The steam from the lava and water can cause a massive explosion. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Water and fire have never mixed well. Lava and the water table are even worse. When fissures spread out from the volcano, they come into contact with lakes and the water table. Eventually, all the steam that is created reaches a bursting point.

Projectiles from those explosions are essentially molten hot missiles of rock and they can seriously harm or kill you. You’re essentially walking on a minefield around an active volcano. It’s probably best to just evacuate the area.

Next: Besides evacuating, here are a few ways you can protect yourself.

Protect yourself

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts Forcing Evacuations

Know what you need to do in case you’re ever in this scenario. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Listening to emergency services is key to your survival. But there are some things that you can do on your own without causing harm. Here are just a few quick ones.

  • Don’t drive your vehicle.
  • Reduce the ash in your house by keeping all your doors and windows closed.
  • Have some form of mask to protect you from particulates. If you don’t have one, fashion one from a wet cloth.
  • Wear eye protection as well. The particulates in the air can cause some eye irritation and impede your vision.

Next: If you have children or people with weakened health, follow these rules.

Protect everyone else

Lava flows at a new fissure in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano

You should also know how to protect those around you. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

After you have secured protection for yourself, you can safely address the people around you. People at the highest risk are children, the elderly, and anyone that may be ill. Here’s what you do.

  • Keep them inside as much as possible.
  • Don’t allow too much strenuous activity. Especially with kids running around.
  • If children must be outside, keep them away from areas of heavy ash accumulation.

The only real way to be safe is to evacuate the area until it is safe to return.

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