American Lung Association questions state’s messaging on Lahaina air quality

The American Lung Association is concerned with the delay of results showing whether toxic cancer causing chemicals are in the air or in ash.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:04 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of the American Lung Association Hawaii says the state Health Department is not doing enough to protect Lahaina fire victims from contaminants in the air.

The group is especially concerned about the state’s release of some confusing data on air quality.

Pedro Haro, executive director of the American Lung Association in Hawaii, grew up in Lahaina — where five of his family’s homes were lost in the blaze.

He’s worried about carcinogens like asbestos lingering in the air and grounds of Lahaina.

He said the state isn’t doing enough to warn of the dangers.

“We have heard from people in Lahaina, we have heard from healthcare providers on Maui, that they were receiving mixed messages from Department of Health and no messages at all about the air quality,” said Haro.

Although DOH and the EPA installed sensors following the wildfires that indicate the air quality is good, those doesn’t test for toxic chemicals.

On Monday, over a month since the Aug. 8 fires, DOH shared preliminary and unvalidated data on air sampling gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency in Lahaina and upcountry Maui.

But a news release didn’t say what the confusing data means in simple language.

Even Haro said his lung experts are struggling to understand it.

“We have been trying to work internally with our teams,” said Haro.

“What we have heard from our experts is that there’s not enough information that was released by the Department of Health for us to really get a clear picture.”

“So, it’s very concerning for us that the EPA conducted this in August, and now we’re near the middle of September, and we still don’t have conclusive data to be able to understand the quality of air in Lahaina.”

“We understand there is a risk of confusion by releasing preliminary data and without a summary, but we are providing it to the public in the interest of transparency and we’ll work on releasing a summary as soon as possible,” said Director of Health Kenneth Fink.

All sides agree that precautions should be taken in the burn zone and that the elderly and children should limit exposure to ash or other debris.