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Characteristics of Volcanic Ash that May Influence Human Health

Short-term heavy exposures to volcanic ash have been linked to adverse health effects such as asthma and irritation of the respiratory tract. There have also been concerns raised by the public health community regarding potential development of respiratory diseases such as silicosis that might result from longer-term inhalation exposure to volcanic ash. Although there have been no documented cases of silicosis attributed to free crystalline silica in volcanic ash from eruptions in the past few decades, detailed studies for lengthy periods of time necessary to determine the potential long-term effects of ash are notably lacking.

USGS scientists are working to characterize the mineralogy, particle size distribution, and chemical reactivity characteristics of volcanic ash erupted from several volcanoes (including the 1980 and 2004 Mt. St. Helens eruptions) that may be of importance from a human health perspective. A USGS scientist is participating as an expert member of the International Volcanic Health Hazards Network.

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URL: http://health.usgs.gov/inhalation/volcanic_ash.html
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Page Last Modified: 05-May-2016@11:35