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Correcting Some Misconceptions about Vog

Posted by Harry Pritikin on Tuesday, 5 December 2017, at 10:49 a.m.
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In response to 141498: VOG and long term living in Kona, posted by Tommy L on Saturday, 2 December 2017, at 11:18 a.m.

Aloha Tommy, I have lived in Kona for 37 years and accept the vog as a part of life here. I live in North Kona and the vog is not as thick here as it is in South Kona. There are many less voggy days by the time you get up to Waikoloa Village. Waikoloa is also very dry, so less mold spores to trigger an asthma attack. If you have small children, Waikoloa also have a great grammar school.

I have spoken to people with asthma and they said they have as many attacks on non voggy days as on voggy days. It's easy to blame the vog when you have an attack on a voggy day, but the trigger is probably something else. Believe it or not, studies have shown that cockroach feces is the most virulent trigger for asthma. In the tropics you can't get away from it. The roaches are always there, even if you don't see them.

By the time vog gets to Kona it no longer contains SO2. The smoke coming our of the crater is very thick with S02; a poisonous gas. However, as the smoke travels around the island the SO2 is convered to H2SO4 by moisture in the atmosphere. Smoke from lava that has flowed into the ocean will also contain HCL. By the time vog gets to Kona it's a mildly acidic solution suspended in water vapor with a pH of 4.5; the same pH as pH balanced shampoo.

Here's more:

Vog is created when hot lava flows into the ocean. The heat causes sulfate ions from the lava and chloride ions from the salt in the water to dissolve in the steam that is generated and rises into the atmosphere. Wind currents blow the vog around south point where it is sucked into a vortex created by the trade winds blowing between the Big Island and Maui. This river of wind creates a vacuum on the leeward side of the island. Thus, anything coming around South Point will be sucked in. Vog contains nothing more than these ions and has a pH of 4.5, similar to pH balanced shampoo. It does not contain any heavy metals, organic hydrocarbons or carbon monoxide like industrial pollution does. By the time it reaches Kona it is not strong enough to smart the eyes or cause labored breathing unless you have asthma (in which case, it's hard to tell what is really causing the labored breathing because asthma sufferers can suffer labored breathing anywhere).

What is coming directly out of the Halemaumau crater is not yet vog. This smoke plume contains a large amount of sulfur dioxide, SO2, and is dangerous to breath. When the wind shifts and blows the smoke over Volcano Village, people have to evacuate. When it blows over to Hilo it makes breathing difficult and smells like sulfur. It has caused crop damage as far away as Ocean View. However, by the time it reaches the Kona side the SO2 has been converted to H2SO4 and it has become vog. The problem is, because of this new source of vog, the vog is thicker on voggy days. The worst thing about it is that it doesn't look good. On the bright side, it makes you appreciate the clear days even more.

Most people are not allergic to vog. Allergies are usually caused by proteins, like those in pollen, mold spores, shellfish, dust mites and cockroach feces. However, some people are allergic to sulfur. You would know if you were, because sulfites (used on salads in restaurants to keep the lettuce from turning brown) will give an allergic person an anaphylactic reaction. This is a very specific and unusual allergy which would make it impossible for you to live in a city, because sulfites are emitted from autos with catalytic converters in their exhaust systems.

If vog and allergies concern you, Waikoloa might be a good place to settle. It's dry there, so there is less pollen and mold spores, and it has way less vog than Kailua, because the wind blows in a different direction there, and keeps the vog offshore. Also, Waikoloa has an award winning grammar school and is closer to all the best beaches.

For more on vog, go to: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Hazards/What/VolGas/VolGasPollution.html

Mahalo, Harry


Responses:
   Δ Something in the air
    Joan W -- Wednesday, 6 December 2017, at 2:47 a.m.
   Δ Roaches
    Dot -- Wednesday, 6 December 2017, at 11:50 a.m.

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