Thick haze creates 'moderate,' 'unhealthy' air quality in Kona

Published: Jun. 5, 2018 at 6:55 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 6, 2018 at 5:44 AM HST
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KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The sun is out, but Kona is getting anything but clear skies.

Amid ongoing eruptions on the Big Island, the area is seeing heavy volcanic haze.

Ian Morrison, of NOAA, said the vog is so thick it's affecting visibility. Of greater concern: Residents are reporting headaches, red eyes and congestion.

Those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children could be at greatest risk.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow monitor, tracking sulfur dioxide levels across the Big Island, rated the air quality in Kona and Ocean View as "moderate."

The message to residents: "Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion."

But in recent days, the air quality has also been deemed "unhealthy." In these conditions, everyone could begin to experience "more serious health effects."

An unhealthy rating is given when the air quality index is between 151 to 200. Air quality in the good range is 0 to 50.

Experts don't know what the long-term effects of vog are on populations. That's in part because vog comes and goes with shifting winds.

And it can come in different forms.

The vog affecting Kona is not the same as what people in Pahala are experiencing downwind from explosive eruptions at Kilauea's summit crater. For at least a month, eruptions at Halemaumau Crater have been spewing columns of ash and other volcanic emissions into the air, sending ashfall onto nearby communities.

On Tuesday, the state did release a new tool aimed at better tracking air quality conditions.

"The health and safety of first responders and the community have been our top priorities," said state Health Director Bruce Anderson.

"These additional monitors will provide integral data for emergency management officials to make critical decisions each day to support response efforts, and for residents and visitors to make informed decisions for their personal health and safety concerns."

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