Vog prompts doctor visits for people with breathing problems - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Vog prompts doctor visits for people with breathing problems

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WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Michael Ortiz lives in Maili. He said the vog that hangs over the Leeward Coast is messing with his health.

"Congestion. Some difficulty breathing, And irritation of my eyes," he said.

People with breathing problems suffer most when Kona winds draw vog over the state and pollute the air with Kilauea volcano's sulfur dioxide and particles.

"I think it's worse for people whose underlying disease is worse. A childhood asthmatic or someone with cystic fibrosis, if they are exposed and they have severe respiratory disease at baseline, they're going to have a severe flare-up," said Dr. Winslow Engel at Malama Ola Clinic at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Engel expects more visits from patients because of the vog.

The Health Department's vog gauges show minimal impact so far on Oahu's air quality. But that could change with the weather forecast predicting vog conditions through the week.

"Trade winds are pretty much governed by the sub-tropical high pressure to the north of us," UH professor Pao-Shin Chu said.

The climatologist tracks the trade winds that keep vog from encroaching on Oahu. He has noticed a drop in northeast trade wind days, from 291 days a year 30 years ago to 210 these days. He estimates 2012 will show about 200 days with trade winds -- fewer than the norm but nowhere close to the worst years on record.

"Historically, we have two years characterized by very very low trade wind days. Less than 100," he said.

Ortiz isn't asthmatic but is sensitive to vog.

"Especially driving home or to work, I definitely see it blanketing the entire Waianae coast," he said.

He's not the only one anxious for the suffocating curtain to be gone with the wind.

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Thick vog smothers islands, winds disappear

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