Volcanic Emissions and Health

  • Philip WeinsteinEmail author
  • Claire J. Horwell
  • Angus Cook


Volcanoes provide a conduit by which magma—the molten rock, gases, and water within the earth—may interact with human biological systems (Fig. 10.1). Because of the range of materials that are ejected during eruptions, the consequent effects on human health are diverse. Contact may occur dramatically and immediately for people living close to the vent, such as from pyroclastic density currents or the emission of large projectiles. Alternatively, effects on health may occur slowly or at great distances from the volcano as a result of dispersal of volcanic material such as ash and aerosols.


Lava Flow Lava Dome Crystalline Silica Pyroclastic Density Current Volcanic Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Afane Z, Atchou G, Carteret P, Huchon GJ (1996) Respiratory symptoms and peak expiratory flow in survivors of the Nyos disaster. Chest 110(5):1278–1281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armienta M, de la Cruz-Reyna S, Morton O (2001) Compositional variations of ash deposits as a function of distance at popocatepetl volcano. Cities on volcanoes In: 2nd conference proceedings, Auckland, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  3. Bates MN, Garrett N, Shoemack P (2002) Investigation of health effects of hydrogen sulfide from a geothermal source. Arch Environ Health 57(5):405–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baubron J-C, Toutain JP (1990) Diffuse volcanic emissions of carbon dioxide from volcano island, Italy. Nature 344:51–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baxter PJ (1983) Health hazards of volcanic eruptions. J R Coll Phys Lond 17(3):180–182Google Scholar
  6. Baxter PJ (1990) Medical effects of volcanic eruptions. Bull Volcanol 52:532–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baxter PJ (1997) Volcanoes. In: Noji EK (ed) The public health consequences of disasters. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Baxter PJ (2001) Human health and volcanoes: recent developments. In: Stewart C (ed) Proceedings of the cities on volcanoes 2 conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 12-14 Feb 2001, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Information Series, vol 49. Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited, Lower Hutt, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  9. Baxter PJ, Coutinho R (1999) Health hazards and disaster potential of ground gas emissions at Furnas volcano, Sao Miguel, Azores. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 92:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baxter PJ, Ing R, Falk H et al (1981) Mount St. Helens eruptions, May 18–Jun 12, 1980: an overview of the acute health impact. JAMA 246:2585–2589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Baxter PJ, Falk RS, Falk H et al (1982a) Medical aspects of volcanic disasters: an outline of hazards and emergency response measures. Disasters 6:268–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Baxter PJ, Stroiber RE, Williams SN (1982b) Volcanic gases and health: Masaya volcano, Nicaragua. Lancet 2:150–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Baxter PJ, Ing R, Falk H et al (1983) Mount St. Helens eruptions: the acute respiratory effects of volcanic ash in a north American community. Arch Environ Health 38:138–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Baxter PJ, Bolyard ML, Buist AS et al (1986) Health effects of volcanoes. An approach to evaluating the health effects of an environmental hazard. Am J Public Health 76:1–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Baxter PJ, Dupree R, Hards VL et al (1999) Cristobalite volcanic ash of the Soufriere hills volcano, Montserrat, British West Indies. Science 283:1142–1145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bethel RA, Sheppard D, Nadel JA, Boushey HA (1983) Sulfur dioxide-induced bronchoconstriction in freely breathing, exercising, asthmatic subjects. Am Rev Respir Dis 128:987–990Google Scholar
  17. Blong RJ (1984) Volcanic hazards: a sourcebook on the effects of eruptions. Academic, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  18. Buist AS (1988) Evaluation of the short and long term effects of exposure to inhaled volcanic ash from Mt. St. Helens. In: Kagoshima international conference on volcanoes proceedings, Kagoshima, Japan, pp 709–712Google Scholar
  19. Buist AS, Vollmer WM, Johnson LR et al (1986) A four-year prospective study of the respiratory effects of volcanic ash from Mount St. Helens. Am Rev Respir Dis 133:526–534Google Scholar
  20. Cook A, Watson J, van Buynder P, Robsrtson A, Weinstein P (2008) Natural disasters and their long-term impacts on the health of communities. J Environ Monit 10:167–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cullen RT, Jones AD, Miller BG et al (2002) Toxicity of volcanic ash from Montserrat. IOM TM/02/01. Institute of Occupational Medicine, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  22. Damby DE, Horwell CJ, Baxter PJ, Delmelle P, Donaldson K, Dunster C, Fubini B, Murphy F, Nattrass C, Sweeney S (2013) The respiratory health hazard of tephra from the 2010 Centennial eruption of Merapi with implications for occupational mining of deposits. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, doi: org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.09.001
  23. Davies H (1998) Review of the priority 2 identification programme 1997/98. Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  24. Dent AW, Barret P, de Saint Ours PJA (1995) The 1994 eruption of the Rabaul volcano, Papua New Guinea: injuries sustained and medical response. Med J Aust 163:635–639Google Scholar
  25. Eisele JW, O’Halloran RL, Reay DT et al (1981) Deaths during the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens. N Engl J Med 305:931–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Elias T, Sutton AJ (2001) Volcanic air pollution creates health concerns on the Island of Hawai’i, cities on volcanoes In: 2nd conference proceedings, Auckland, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  27. Faivre-Pierret R, Le Guern F (1983) Health risks linked with inhalation of volcanic gases and aerosols. In: Tazieff H, Sabroux J-C (eds) Forecasting volcanic events. Elsevier Press, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  28. German CR, Briem J, Chin C et al (1994) Hydrothermal activity on the Reykjanes ridge: the Steinholl vent-field at 63°06′N. Earth Planet Sci Lett 121:647–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gessner B (1994) Acute fluoride poisoning from a public water system. N Engl J Med 330(2):95–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grandjean P (1982) Occupational fluorosis through 50 years: clinical and epidemiological experiences. Am J Ind Med 3:227–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Green FHY et al (1982) Health implications of the Mount St. Helens eruption, laboratory investigation. Ann Occup Hyg 26(1–4):921–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hansell AL, Horwell CJ, Oppenheimer C (2006) The health hazards of volcanoes and geothermal areas. Occup Environ Med 63(2):149–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hayakawa Y (1999) Catalog of volcanic eruptions during the past 2000 years in Japan. J Geogr 108(4):472–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hickling J, Weinstein P, Woodward A (1999) Acute health effects of the Mount Ruapehu (New Zealand) volcanic eruption of June 1996. Int J Environ Health Res 9:97–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hincks TK, Aspinall WP, Baxter PJ et al (2006) Long term exposure to respirable volcanic ash on Montserrat: a time series simulation. Bull Volcanol 68:266–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Horwell CJ (2007) Grain size analysis of volcanic ash for the rapid assessment of respiratory health hazard. J Environ Monitor 9:1107–1115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Horwell CJ, Baxter PJ (2006) The respiratory health hazards of volcanic ash: a review for volcanic risk mitigation. Bull Volcanol 69(1):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Horwell CJ, Fenoglio I, Fubini B (2007) Iron-induced hydroxyl radical generation from basaltic volcanic ash. Earth Planet Sci Lett 261(3–4):662–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Horwell CJ, Le Blond JS, Michnowicz SAK, Cressey G (2010) Cristobalite in a rhyolitic lava dome: evolution of ash hazard. Bull Volcanol 72:249–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Horwell CJ, Williamson BJ, Llewellin EW et al (2013a) Nature and formation of cristobalite at the Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat: implications for the petrology and stability of silicic volcanic domes. Bull Volcanol. In revisionGoogle Scholar
  41. Horwell CJ, Cole PD, Loughlin SC et al (2013 b) Cristobalite content of ash generated by 15 years of activity of the Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat. J Volcanol Geotherm Res. In revisionGoogle Scholar
  42. Horwell CJ, Williamson BJ, Le Blond JS, Donaldson K, Damby DE, Bowen L (2012) The structure of volcanic cristobalite in relation to its toxicity; relevance for the variable crystalline silica hazard. Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2012, 9:44Google Scholar
  43. International Agency for Research on Cancer (1997) Silica, some silicates, coal dust and para-aramid fibrils. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, 506 ppGoogle Scholar
  44. Jappinen P, Marttila O, Haahtela T (1990) Exposure to hydrogen sulphide and respiratory function. Br J Ind Med 47:824–828Google Scholar
  45. Kizer KW (1984) Toxic inhalations. Emerg Med Clin N Am 2:649–666Google Scholar
  46. Kullmann CJ, Jones WG, Cornwell RJ et al (1994) Characterization of air contaminants formed by the interaction of lava and sea water. Environ Health Perspect 102(5):478–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Le Blond JS, Horwell CJ, Baxter PJ et al (2010) Mineralogical analyses and in vitro screening tests for the rapid evaluation of the health hazard of volcanic ash at Rabaul volcano, Papua New Guinea. Bull Volcanol 72:1077–1092CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Le Guern PL, Faivre-Pierret R (1982) An example of health hazard: people killed by gas during a phreatic eruption: Dieng Plateau (Java Indonesia), February 20th 1979. Bull Volcanol 45:153–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lohr AJ, Bogaard TA, Heikens A et al (2005) Natural pollution caused by the extremely acidic crater Lake Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 12(2):89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Longo BM, Yang W, Green JB et al (2010) Acute health effects associated with exposure to volcanic air pollution (vog) from increased activity at Kilauea Volcano in 2008. J Toxicol Environ Health-Part A-Curr Issue 73(20):1370–1381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lowe D (1986) Lahars Initiated by the 13 November 1985 Eruption of Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia. Nature 324:51–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mannino DM, Holschuh FC, Holscuh TC et al (1996) Emergency department visits and hospitalizations for respiratory disease on the island of Hawaii, 1981 to 1991. Hawaii Med J 55:48–54Google Scholar
  53. Moseholm L, Taudorf E, Frosig A (1993) Pulmonary function changes in asthmatics associated with low-level SO2 and NO2 air pollution, weather, and medicine intake. An 8-month prospective study analyzed by neural networks. Allergy 48:334–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Murata KJ (1966) The 1959–60 Eruption of Kilauea volcano, Hawaii; an acidic Fumarolic gas from Kilauea Iki. U. S. Geological survey professional paper, 537-C, 1–6Google Scholar
  55. Myers B Driedger C (2008) Geologic hazards at volcanoes. U.S. Geological survey general information product 64, 1 sheet. Accessed 3 March 2012
  56. Newhall CG, Self S (1982) The volcanic explosivity index (VEI). J Geophys Res 87:1231–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Olsen KB, Fruchter JS (1986) Identification of hazards associated with volcanic emissions. Am J Publ Health 76(Suppl):45–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ostro BD, Wiener MB, Selner JC (1991) Asthmatic responses to airborne acid aerosols. Am J Publ Health 81(6):694–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rohl AM, Langer AM, Moncure G et al (1982) Endemic pleural disease associated with exposure to mixed fibrous dust in Turkey. Science 216:518–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Roobol MJ, Smith AL (1989) Volcanic and associated hazards in the lesser antilles. In: Latter JH (ed) Volcanic hazards: assessment and monitoring. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  61. Scientific Event Alert Network (SEAN) (1989) Global volcanism 1975–1985: the first decade of reports from the Smithsonian Institution’s Scientific Event Alert Network. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  62. Spallholz JE (1994) On the nature of selenium toxicity and carcinostatic activity. Free Radic Biol Med 17:45–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sparks RSJ, Bursik MI, Carey SN et al (1997) Volcanic plumes. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  64. Taylor GAM (1958) The 1951 eruption of Mt. Lamington. Papua. Bureau of Mineral Resources of Australia, Bulletin 38Google Scholar
  65. Tazieff H, Sabroux J-C (1983) Forecasting volcanic events. Elsevier Press, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  66. Vallyathan V, Robinson V, Reasor M et al (1984) Comparative in vitro cytotoxicity of volcanic ashes from Mount St. Helens, El Chichon, and Galunggung. J Toxicol Environ Health 14:641–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wagner GN, Clark MA, Koenigsberg EJ et al (1988) Medical evaluation of the victims of the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster. J Forensic Sci 33:899–909Google Scholar
  68. Weinstein P (2005) Palaeopathology by Proxy: the case of Egil’s Bones. J Archaeol Sci 32:1077–1082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Weinstein P, Patel A (1997) The Mount Ruapehu eruption, 1996: a review of potential health effects. Aust N Z J Publ Health 21(7):773–778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Welch AH, Lico MS, Hughes JL (1988) Arsenic in ground water of the western United States. Ground Water 26:333–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Williams SN, Moore JG (1983) Man against the volcano: the eruption on Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. U. S. Geological Survey, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  72. Witham CS (2005) Volcanic disasters and incidents: a new database. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 148(3–4):191–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Witham CS, Oppenheimer C (2005) Mortality in England during the 1783–4 Laki Craters eruption. Bull Volcanol 67(1):15–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Witham CS, Oppenheimer C, Horwell CJ (2005) Volcanic ash leachates: a review and recommendations for sampling methods. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 141:299–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Yano E, Yokohama Y, Higashi H et al (1990) Health effects of volcanic ash: a repeat study. Arch Environ Health 45(6):367–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yang G, Ge K, Chen J, Chen X (1988) Selenium-related endemic diseases and the daily nutritional requirements of humans. World Rev Nutr Diet 55:98–152Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Weinstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claire J. Horwell
    • 2
  • Angus Cook
    • 3
  1. 1.Barbara Hardy InstituteUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Department of Earth SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  3. 3.School of Population HealthUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations