While most of the global news media were focused on the threat to air space from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, the threat of ash particles to human health is also of major concern, especially for those living near the volcano. Fortunately, a recent study led by Dr Claire Horwell, a volcanologist at IHRR and Director of the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, revealed that the ash does not have the potential to cause long-term respiratory health problems for Icelanders.
The full report is available through this link: http://www.ivhhn.org/images/pdf/iceland_ash_health_report.pdf
Excerpt from release on IVHHN website:
A new study led by IVHHN Director Claire Horwell has concluded that the ash from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull earlier this year does not have the potential to cause long-term respiratory health problems for Icelanders. Analyses showed few physical attributes relevant to respiratory health, with the exception of only one of 14 samples.
It was discovered that ash from volcano summit eruptions in April and May this year had a low-moderate potential to exacerbate pre-existing respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic bronchitis during the period of ash fall. The potential for the development of long-term lung problems from the exposure to the ash during the eruption or afterwards from resuspension of the ash deposits was low.
The study was led by Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk & Resilience, where Dr Horwell is based. Using 14 different samples from across Iceland, it was found that the ash contained a significant amount of very fine-grained particles which could irritate the airways of susceptible people who already have asthma or chronic bronchitis. But in vitro experiments suggested that the risk of the ash triggering acute pulmonary inflammation at ambient levels of exposure is low.