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Perceptions of volcanic air pollution and exposure reduction practices on the Island of Hawai‘i: Working towards socially relevant risk communication

Horwell, C.J.; Elias, T.; Covey, J.; Bhandari, R.; Truby, J.

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Authors

T. Elias

R. Bhandari

J. Truby



Abstract

Kīlauea volcano, on the Island of Hawai‘i, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Over the past four decades it has released large amounts of volcanic gases and aerosols which form volcanic air pollution known as ‘vog’. Communities downwind of Kīlauea have been chronically or episodically exposed to this potentially harmful air pollution and have raised concerns about the hazards of vog exposure. Public health and civil protection agencies have offered a range of advice, information, and mitigation strategies for living with vog. In this mixed-methods social study, we investigate the translation of official advice into practice in Island of Hawai‘i communities and assess how risk communication could be improved by considering public input, preferences, and community relevance. Given the paucity of information on the long-term effects of chronic vog exposure, assessing the effectiveness of public health and risk communication is vital.

In 2015, through questionnaire surveys (n = 143), four focus groups and several stakeholder meetings, we assessed whether, and how, residents accessed intervention advice, if it was relevant and useful, how they acted on it and how they would like to receive advice and urgent exposure warnings in the future. We also investigated local knowledge and self-developed interventions and documented the perceived risks of vog exposure, including symptoms that people attribute to vog.

Most participants (83%) perceived that vog caused health symptoms such as exacerbation of asthma, itchy eyes, and blocked nose and 62% thought it was harmful to their long-term health. A third of participants had considered relocating to avoid the vog yet, despite this, most people took no action to reduce vog exposure. Participants reported that the official advice was difficult to follow given their living situation or lifestyle. Some participants viewed the agency advice as inconsistent, irrelevant, or out of date. Participants preferred to receive advice and air quality alerts via a variety of media, depending on factors such as their access to internet, cell phone, and radio reception.

The study findings led to a collaboration with federal and state health, land management, educational, science, and civil protection agencies to improve and standardize health advisory messaging, to make it more relevant to Island of Hawai‘i communities and environment. New printable and web-based communication products were developed, which included local knowledge of effective protective actions/symptom reduction strategies. An interagency ‘Vog Dashboard’ was also introduced to consolidate vog knowledge, including sources of air quality data, vog forecasts, and advice on vog environmental, agricultural, and health impacts. This dashboard was recommended as a primary site for advice by international media outlets in 2018 and was heavily used during the 2018 Kīlauea and 2022 Mauna Loa eruption crises.

Citation

Horwell, C., Elias, T., Covey, J., Bhandari, R., & Truby, J. (2023). Perceptions of volcanic air pollution and exposure reduction practices on the Island of Hawai‘i: Working towards socially relevant risk communication. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 95, Article 103853. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.103853

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 8, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 10, 2023
Publication Date 2023-09
Deposit Date Aug 16, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 16, 2023
Journal International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Print ISSN 2212-4209
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 95
Article Number 103853
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.103853
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1719357

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