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Health Impact Assessment of volcanic ash inhalation: A comparison with outdoor air pollution methods

Mueller, W.; Cowie, H.; Horwell, C.J.; Hurley, F.; Baxter, P.J.

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W. Mueller

H. Cowie

F. Hurley

P.J. Baxter


This paper critically appraises the extrapolation of concentration‐response functions (CRFs) for fine and coarse particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10 respectively, used in outdoor air pollution Health Impact Assessment (HIA) studies to assess the extent of health impacts in communities exposed to volcanic emissions. Treating volcanic ash as PM, we: 1) consider existing models for HIA for general outdoor PM; 2) identify documented health effects from exposure to ash in volcanic eruptions; 3) discuss potential issues of applying CRFs based on the composition and concentration of ash‐related PM; and 4) critically review available case studies of volcanic exposure scenarios utilising HIA for outdoor air pollution. We identify a number of small‐scale studies focusing on populations exposed to volcanic ash; exposure is rarely quantified and there is limited evidence concerning the health effects of PM from volcanic eruptions. That limited evidence is, however, consistent with the CRFs typically used for outdoor air pollution HIA. Two health assessments of exposure to volcanic emissions have been published using population‐ and occupational‐based CRFs, though each application entails distinct assumptions and limitations. We conclude that the best available strategy at present is to apply outdoor air pollution risk estimates to scenarios involving volcanic ash emissions for the purposes of HIA. However, due to the knowledge gaps on, for example, the health effects from exposure to volcanic ash and differences in ash composition, there is inherent uncertainty in this application. To conclude, we suggest actions to enable better prediction and assessment of health impacts of volcanic emissions.


Mueller, W., Cowie, H., Horwell, C., Hurley, F., & Baxter, P. (2020). Health Impact Assessment of volcanic ash inhalation: A comparison with outdoor air pollution methods. Geohealth, 4(7), Article e2020GH000256.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 7, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 3, 2020
Publication Date 2020-07
Deposit Date May 14, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 7, 2020
Journal Geohealth
Electronic ISSN 2471-1403
Publisher John Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 7
Article Number e2020GH000256


Published Journal Article (809 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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