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Title: Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash

Abstract

Shortly after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, a number of laboratories began to investigate the effects of volcanic ash in a variety of experimental systems in attempts to predict effects that might occur in the lung of humans exposed to volcanic ash. The published results are remarkably consistent, despite the use of non-uniform ash samples and variability in the experimental approaches used. The data indicate that volcanic ash, even in high concentrations, causes little toxicity to lung cells in vitro and in vivo, as compared with effects of free crystalline silica, which is known to be highly fibrogenic. Volcanic ash does not appear to be entirely inert, however, possibly because of low concentrations of free crystalline silica in the ash. The published experimental studies suggest that inhaled volcanic ash is not likely to be harmful to the lungs of healthy humans, but the potential effects of volcanic ash in patients with pre-existing lung diseases are more difficult to ascertain from these studies.

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
OSTI Identifier:
7193308
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Volume: 76:3
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
63 RADIATION, THERMAL, AND OTHER ENVIRON. POLLUTANT EFFECTS ON LIVING ORGS. AND BIOL. MAT.; ASHES; TOXICITY; VOLCANOES; HEALTH HAZARDS; BENCH-SCALE EXPERIMENTS; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; CRYSTALS; DISEASES; FIBERS; FORECASTING; HUMAN POPULATIONS; IN VITRO; IN VIVO; INHALATION; LUNGS; MT ST HELENS; PATIENTS; RESPIRATORY SYSTEM DISEASES; SAMPLING; SILICA; BODY; CASCADE MOUNTAINS; CHALCOGENIDES; FEDERAL REGION X; HAZARDS; INTAKE; MINERALS; MOUNTAINS; NORTH AMERICA; ORGANS; OXIDE MINERALS; OXIDES; OXYGEN COMPOUNDS; POPULATIONS; RESIDUES; RESPIRATORY SYSTEM; SILICON COMPOUNDS; SILICON OXIDES; USA; WASHINGTON; 560400* - Other Environmental Pollutant Effects

Citation Formats

Martin, T.R., Wehner, A.P., and Butler, J. Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash. United States: N. p., 1986. Web. doi:10.2105/AJPH.76.Suppl.59.
Martin, T.R., Wehner, A.P., & Butler, J. Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash. United States. doi:10.2105/AJPH.76.Suppl.59.
Martin, T.R., Wehner, A.P., and Butler, J. 1986. "Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash". United States. doi:10.2105/AJPH.76.Suppl.59.
@article{osti_7193308,
title = {Evaluation of physical health effects due to volcanic hazards: the use of experimental systems to estimate the pulmonary toxicity of volcanic ash},
author = {Martin, T.R. and Wehner, A.P. and Butler, J.},
abstractNote = {Shortly after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, a number of laboratories began to investigate the effects of volcanic ash in a variety of experimental systems in attempts to predict effects that might occur in the lung of humans exposed to volcanic ash. The published results are remarkably consistent, despite the use of non-uniform ash samples and variability in the experimental approaches used. The data indicate that volcanic ash, even in high concentrations, causes little toxicity to lung cells in vitro and in vivo, as compared with effects of free crystalline silica, which is known to be highly fibrogenic. Volcanic ash does not appear to be entirely inert, however, possibly because of low concentrations of free crystalline silica in the ash. The published experimental studies suggest that inhaled volcanic ash is not likely to be harmful to the lungs of healthy humans, but the potential effects of volcanic ash in patients with pre-existing lung diseases are more difficult to ascertain from these studies.},
doi = {10.2105/AJPH.76.Suppl.59},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = 76:3,
place = {United States},
year = 1986,
month = 3
}
  • This investigation has shown that crystalline silica has been identified as being present in the Mount St. Helens volcanic ash at levels of 3 to 7 per cent by weight. This identification has been established using X-ray powder diffraction, infrared spectrophotometry, visible spectrophotometry, electron microscopy, and Laser Raman spectrophometry. Quantitative analysis by IR, XRD, and visible spectrophotometry requires a preliminary phosphoric acid digestion of the ash sample to remove the plagioclase silicate material which interferes with the determination by these methods. Electron microscopic analysis as well as Laser Raman spectrophotometric analysis of the untreated ash confirms the presence of silicamore » and at levels found by the XRD and IR analysis of the treated samples. An interlaboratory study of volcanic ash samples by 15 laboratories confirms the presence and levels of crystalline silica. Although several problems with applying the digestion procedure were observed in this hastily organized study, all laboratories employed the digestion procedure reported the presence of crystalline silica. These results unequivocally put to rest the question of the presence of silica in the volcanic ash from eruptions of Mount St. Helens in 1980.« less
  • Despite certain gaps in the knowledge that has been gained from the studies done in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens and following previous major volcanic eruptions, we can be confident that the health effects of both short- and long-term exposures to the relatively low levels of airborne volcanic ash that are typical following such a volcanic eruption are minor. These effects seem to relate more to the irritating effect of the ash on mucous membranes and airway epithelia than to the potential of the ash (due to its free crystalline silica content) to initiate a fibrotic response. Nevertheless, commonmore » sense dictates that exposures should be minimized whenever possible by use of appropriate preventive measures, such as wetting the sedimented ash before disturbing it, and using commercially available disposable paper masks meeting NIOSH code TC-23 for dusts for light exposures and industrial half- and full-faced respirator and goggles for more extensive and heavy exposure.« less
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  • Health hazards encountered in the operation of nuclearpowered fleet baiiistic missile (Poiaris) submarines are discussed. Methods and apparatus for removing toxic materials generated while the submarine is submerged are described. Elimination of carbon monoxide in particular is considered. Various methods for detecting atmoapheric contamination as well as criteria for evaluating maximum allowable air concentrations are also considered. The approach and-procedures employed to effect the toxicological control in submarines are directly applicable to other rapidly developing systems, such as in the design of manned space vehicles. (P.C.H.)
  • Immediately after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the public health and laboratory science communities were required to assess the likely nature and toxicity of the volcanic products. This included assessing the following volcanic products: the emissions of volcanic gases (SO/sub 2/) and H/sub 2/S), volatile organics (polynuclear aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons), toxic inorganics (arsenic, mercury, HF, and HCl), radon gas and short-lived radiation emitted (alpha and gamma) during the decay of radon daughters, and respirable particulates (fibrous materials and free crystalline silica). The intent of this article is to present the Mount St. Helens environmental samplingmore » plan, discuss the numerous techniques available to the public health community to analyze volcanic emissions for toxic materials, and briefly outline the findings of the many analytical laboratory studies published after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.« less