Wednesday, July 06, 2022|
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Once again, Hawaii County received an “F” grade for air quality in the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report.
For Hawaii County residents, the organization’s website says, “the air you breathe may put your health at risk.”
A state-level official with the organization acknowledged that for the Big Island, the risk — particulate pollutants in the air — aren’t from man-made sources. Instead, it comes from volcanic emissions, better known as vog.
“The best we can suggest to you, recognize your triggers, recognize the best times of day to stay indoors,” Kim Nguyen, Hawaii Director for the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, said Wednesday, the day the national organization released its 2014 report. “Go inside. Recognize what it is that’s going to set you off and when.”
Hawaii County did reduce its short-term particle pollution from 2010 to 2013, despite the failing grade. Hawaii County also received an “F” for annual particle pollution.
Some of the association’s suggestions, such as drinking more water to help offset the impacts of pollution, are easier than others, including recommendations to go into an air-conditioned building on days when particulate levels are high.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said the new Ka‘u High School gym will provide one place for relief from the vog, which can become particularly concentrated in Pahala.
Kenoi said he isn’t frustrated by the report characterizing Hawaii County as a place with polluted air, even though the problem is from a natural source, as opposed to vehicle or factory emissions.
“It’s clearly the whims of Mother Nature,” Kenoi said Wednesday. “It’s something we here in Hawaii understand and accept.”
Vog has impacted more than just people, he said. He’s heard anecdotes about the poor air quality affecting businesses, particularly when visitors choose not to come here because of worries about the vog. Farmers have noted the negative impact vog can have on their crops and ranchers have seen effects, too, he said.
The Fire Department and Hawaii County Civil Defense are monitoring vog and particulate levels around the island, Kenoi said.
Residents have been offered more education and outreach, and organizations continue to research the situation, he added.
“I would venture that people are more prepared,” Kenoi said. “But still, some days are great, other days are not.”
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