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Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

Indonesia, Mexico & Japan

Helping governments, hazard managers and communities better protect people from inhaling volcanic ash

During eruptions, communities use a range of respiratory protection, distributed by governmental and aid agencies or purchased by citizens. There is little evidence that any of these forms of protection are effective in community settings, however.

When a volcano erupts people need to know urgently whether the contaminated air is OK to breathe. They need rapid, trustworthy and effective health-protection advice. Volcanic emissions can exacerbate respiratory disease in susceptible people and can also affect healthy individuals.

Hazard managers need rapidly to determine and respond to the respiratory hazard of volcanic emissions
. Every eruption is different, so generic assessments and advice may not be suitable. Hazard managers need to provide accurate, timely advice and decide how or whether to protect communities.

The Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE) project will transform humanitarian practice during volcanic crises.

The HIVE project will build an evidence base on the effectiveness of different forms of respiratory protection through laboratory trials on the filtration efficiency of various materials used by communities (from clothing to commercial respirators) and their effectiveness in real-world community settings. HIVE will work with communities to understand their perception of the risks of inhaling volcanic ash and the cultural, social and climatic factors which control whether they will protect themselves. A clinical trial will also explore whether effective protection reduces symptoms from ash inhalation, in asthmatics.

HIVE’s robust evidence on effective respiratory protection interventions will allow government organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to make informed decisions when procuring, distributing and recommending protection against volcanic crises. HIVE findings will be translated into official guidance and toolkits, facilitating rapid, global change in practice.

HIVE is a research consortium funded by the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme. The R2HC programme is funded equally by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Dr Claire Horwell is the Principal Investigator for the HIVE project. Dr Horwell also established the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network an umbrella organisation for dissemination of research & information on volcanic health hazards. Dr Horwell is a Management board member of IHRR.