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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

HIVE – Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions

A research project of the Department of Sociology.

Summary and Research Questions

Volcanic ash inhalation can trigger respiratory disease and cause acute anxiety, leading to increased vulnerability during eruptions. Agencies distribute facemasks which, invariably, have poor facial seals and inadequately filter fine-grained particles. High-efficiency masks, though, may underperform if not fit-tested, are costly and uncomfortable.

We ask:

1) Are some types of respiratory protection more effective in a volcanic crisis than others (and is some protection better than no protection)?

2) How should generic advice be modified for different cultures, climates and economies?

In the first study of its kind, we will determine the effectiveness of a range of masks; whether home-made interventions are as effective; and whether mask wearing has a measurable impact on respiratory health.


  1. To build a new, and urgently required, evidence base on the effectiveness and suitability of different forms of respiratory protection for general population use during volcanic crises.
  2. To engage, and closely involve, stakeholders to ensure uptake of findings, resulting in a change in global and local humanitarian health policy and practice during eruptions.



From the Department of Sociology

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