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Dept of Health revises sulfur dioxide advisory levels for Big Island


The vent at Halemaumau Crater as seen from Jagger Museum Monday (Feb 21). Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

The vent at Halemaumau Crater as seen from Jagger Museum Monday (Feb 21). Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

HONOLULU – In response to EPA’s new 1-hour sulfur dioxide (SO2) standard of 75 ppb, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) has revised its advisory levels to be more protective of people with asthma.
The new advisory levels can be found on the website: where the public can obtain up-to-date information on sulfur dioxide levels in areas of the Island of Hawaii impacted by vog and volcanic emissions. The public is encouraged to use the website to access near-time sulfur dioxide levels in the Pahala, Ocean View, Hilo, Mountain View, Puna, and Kona areas and in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Sulfur dioxide is an irritant gas emitted by the Kilauea volcano. People with asthma, who are physically active outdoors, are most likely to experience the health effects of sulfur dioxide.

Hawai'i Short Term SO2 Alert Index website

Short Term SO2 Alert Index website

In 2008, the DOH collaborated with several federal and state agencies to develop a color-coded system to make it easier for people to understand quickly whether sulfur dioxide is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities. Six colors cover current sulfur dioxide levels measured by DOH air monitors based on 15-minute averages. The six colors correspond to different levels of health concern ranging from “good” to “hazardous”. Now, based on updated health effects information by the EPA, the DOH is revising the SO2 advisory levels for the Green-“Good,” Yellow –“Moderate” and Orange-“Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals”

The revised DOH advisory levels of SO2 are aligned with the new national standard, said Gary Gill, Deputy Director for Environmental Health. “We still caution the public to rely on how they personally respond to SO2 in the air and not just on the DOH air monitors to make decisions.”

The sulfur dioxide effect on communities varies widely depending largely on the wind and weather conditions. Accordingly, the stationary air monitors may not be representative of sulfur dioxide levels in your own community. For more information, contact the Clean Air Branch (808) 586-4200.

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