The cost of Hawaii's vog - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

The cost of Hawaii's vog

Kim Nguyen Kim Nguyen
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The health impacts of vog are well established.

 "Depending on your own respiratory health issues, your age, how strong your immune system or weak your immune system may be, people have different responses," said Kim Nguyen, Executive Director of the American Lung Association's local chapter.

 However, the health costs are now being studied.  A trio of researchers at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization believe they have quantified it.

 "Basically on days when there are very high exposure to particulates, we show that emergency room admissions for exclusively pulmonary reasons go up a lot," said Tim Halliday, Associate Professor of Economics at UH Manoa and co-author of the study.

 Halliday and his associates cataloged emergency room visits from 2000-2012.  They charted pulmonary visits, cardiovascular visits and used fractures as a control.  They then compared vog levels on corresponding days to come up with their findings.

 "A one standard deviation increase in particulate pollution results in about a 2-3 percent increase in healthcare expenditures for pulmonary related reasons."

The total increase in health care costs since 2008, when activity on Kilauea spiked, has been almost $6.3 million statewide.

While the findings were revealing, Halliday says the main focus of the research really isn't on health care.

"We're actually interested in something broader, which is the external cost of pollution."

Nguyen says no matter the focus of the study, it's always a good conversation to have, to remind people how to best deal with vog.

"Some folks really like to garden, but if it's a heavy vog day, maybe it's not the best day to be outside."

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