“Is it harmful to breathe this ash?” Public health hazard assessment and protection in communities impacted by eruptions
About the Event:
During volcanic eruptions, and their aftermaths, communities may be very concerned about inhaling fine-grained ash, which can be rich in the deleterious mineral crystalline silica. Prof Claire Horwell, Director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (www.ivhhn.org), will lead us through her interdisciplinary career journey, from trying, for a decade, to answer the question “Is it harmful to breathe this ash?”, by mineralogical, geochemical and toxicological analyses of ash samples from around the world, to her realisation that this question cannot easily be answered in the timeframe of acute community exposures. In 2015 she embarked on the Wellcome Trust/DfID-funded project Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE; http://community.dur.ac.uk/hive.consortium/) which aimed to answer a more pertinent question: “How can I protect myself from breathing this ash?”. The HIVE project has built the first evidence base on the effectiveness of common materials used to protect communities in volcanic crises including cloth, surgical and industry-certified masks. The key finding is that industry-certified facemasks are more effective than any other type of protection, even with no fit training. Incorporating laboratory analyses, on the filtration efficiency and fit of 17 forms of respiratory protection, with psychological (questionnaire-based) and anthropological (interview-based) social surveys in Mexico, Japan and Indonesia, and a review of ethical considerations for agencies, the project has culminated in the development of a variety of audio-visual and printable public informational products for IVHHN which are already being widely used in Indonesia.
About the Speaker:
Professor Claire Horwell is Director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network and Professor of GeoHealth at Durham University.