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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Effects of Volcanic Air Pollution on Respiratory Health

Elizabeth Tam

Project Description:

The investigations engage residents of the Big Island of Hawaii in research that explores the effects of volcanic air pollution ("vog") on their respiratory health. Scientists and community researchers are working together to explore the hypothesis that children who have been exposed to volcanic pollution during most of their lives suffer significantly more respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, or diminished lung growth than children who reside in areas of low vog. The overall goal is met by fulfilling the following specific aims: 


  1. develop a community research infrastructure that promotes collaboration between research institutions, community leaders and participants and that builds capacity in the community to address environmental research questions; 
  2. compile and analyze available air monitoring data, historical volcanic activity and weather patterns to estimate the concentrations of vog to which children have been exposed since 1990; 
  3. monitor concentrations of particulate matter, acid aerosols, and SO2 in residential areas that are predicted to differ in vog concentration; 
  4. characterize and compare in a cross-sectional study the respiratory symptoms and function of children in these areas; and 
  5. compare the rates of lung growth in these children in a 3-year follow-up study. 


The overall goal of active and informed community participation is sought in the conduct of all investigations. Thus, achieving each aim yields more than scientific content; it also builds a set of skills that can be applied to other hypotheses. Aims 2 and 3 introduce exposure assessment and statistical comparison. Aim 4 introduces issues of conducting research in human subjects. Aim 5 provides an iterative phase to consolidate skills and generate new hypotheses. In selecting these specific aims, then, the investigators have also outlined broad strokes of a hands-on research curriculum for the community.


  • Hawaii Island Rural Health Association
  • University of Southern California
  • Harvard School of Public Health

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