Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 266–284

Long term exposure to respirable volcanic ash on Montserrat: a time series simulation

  • T. K. Hincks
  • W. P. Aspinall
  • P. J. Baxter
  • A. Searl
  • R. S. J. Sparks
  • G. Woo
Research Article

Abstract

Frequent ash fallout from long-lived eruptions (with active phases greater than 5 years) may lead to local populations experiencing unacceptably high cumulative exposures to respirable particulate matter. Ash from Montserrat has been shown to contain significant levels of cristobalite and other reactive agents that are associated with an increased risk of developing pneumoconiosis (including silicosis) and other long-term health problems. There are a number of difficulties associated with estimating risks in populations due to uncertain and wide ranging individual exposures, change in behaviour with time and the natural variation in individual response. Present estimates of risk in workers and other population groups are simplifications based on a limited number of exposure measurements taken on Montserrat (1996–1999), and exposure−response curves from epidemiological studies of coal workers exposed to siliceous dust. In this paper we present a method for calculating the long-term cumulative exposure to cristobalite from volcanic ash by Monte Carlo simulation. Code has been written to generate synthetic time series for volcanic activity, rainfall, ash deposition and erosion to give daily ash deposit values and cristobalite fraction at a range of locations. The daily mean personal exposure for PM10 and cristobalite is obtained by sampling from a probability distribution, with distribution parameters dependent on occupation, ground deposit depth and daily weather conditions. Output from multiple runs is processed to calculate the exceedance probability for cumulative exposure over a range of occupation types, locations and exposure periods. Results are interpreted in terms of current occupational standards, and epidemiological exposure−response functions for silicosis are applied to quantify the long-term health risk. Assuming continuing volcanic activity, median risk of silicosis (profusion 1/0 or higher) for an average adult after 20 years continuous exposure is estimated to be approximately 0.5% in northern Montserrat to 1.6% in Cork Hill. The occupational group with the highest exposure to ash are gardeners, with a corresponding 2% to 4% risk of silicosis. In situations where opportunities for in-depth exposure studies are limited, computer simulations provide a good indication of risk based on current expert knowledge. By running the code for a range of input scenarios, the cost-benefit of mitigation measures (such as a programme of active ash clearance) can be estimated. Results also may be used to identify situations where full exposure studies or fieldwork would be beneficial.

Keywords

Monte Carlo Montserrat Respirable health Risk Silicosis Volcanic ash Cristobalite 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. K. Hincks
    • 1
  • W. P. Aspinall
    • 2
    • 6
  • P. J. Baxter
    • 3
  • A. Searl
    • 4
  • R. S. J. Sparks
    • 1
  • G. Woo
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Aspinall and AssociatesWoodside Close BeaconsfieldBucksUK
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Institute of Occupational MedicineEdinburghUK
  5. 5.Risk Management SolutionsLondonUK
  6. 6.Institute for Advanced Studies and Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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