Non-eruptive volcanogenic air pollution and health effects

Rodrigues, A.S. & Garcia, P.V. (2015) Non-eruptive volcanogenic air pollution and health effects. Handbook of public health in natural disasters (ed. by R.R. Watson, J.A. Tabor, J.E. Ehiri and V.R. Preedy), 223-234. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Netherlands. ISBN: 978-90-8686-257-3.

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  • Jun, 2015


Chronic exposure to air pollution has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes, such as chronic bronchitis and lung cancer. Nevertheless, the association between air pollution and health outcomes have been mainly studied for anthropogenic pollutants (e.g. road traffic pollution), while the impact of chronic exposure to volcanogenic air pollutants on human health and environmental quality is poorly known. Volcanic activity, either eruptive or non-eruptive, is known to be one of the major natural sources of pollutants, particularly of the air, such as particulate matter, toxic gases and heavy metals. In this chapter, the relevance of volcanoes, particularly of non-eruptive volcanism, as a main source of air pollutants is first discussed; then, the main volcanogenic pollutants emitted by non-eruptive volcanism, particularly those of concern due to their effects on human health are presented and a brief discussion of their health outcomes is given. Finally, such effects are mainly discussed using the inhabitants of Furnas volcano (Azores – Portugal) as case-study. These studies clearly demonstrate that human populations that are chronically exposed to volcanically active environments have a higher risk for genotoxicity and cytotoxicity of the upper respiratory tract tissues, as well of developing other respiratory pathologies and several types of cancer.