Volcanic vog turns air unhealthy in resorts on Maui

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Maui is under a volcanic vog at this time. Tourists visiting the Island and beaches of Maui may not have any idea why it is foggy at this time? How unhealthy is the air today in Kihei, Lahaina, and Kaanapali?

Maui hotel managers, leaders of the Maui travel and tourism industry, and Maui County health officials in Wailea, Kihei, Lahaina, and Kaanapali may be alarmed tonight. So far the Maui Visitors Bureau seems to be quiet about the current situation on Maui and tourists may only know what is going on when following local news or finding the weather to be foggy this afternoon.

Maui health officials say visitors are advised to be prepared and aware of the surrounding conditions, and how they feel or may react to vog in the air.

This is all happening a day after the Hawaii Tourism Authority and also Hawaii Governor Ige had been issuing numerous public statements assuring visitors to Hawaii there was no reason for anyone to be alarmed of or cancel their trip to Hawaii because of the outbreak of the  Kilauea volcano on Hawaii Island. The official version for future travelers and current visitors remains: Hawaii is wide open for business.

On the Island of Hawaii, a new hazards came a day after officials warned that lava was flowing from the Kilauea volcano is exploding and is pouring into the ocean. This is forming a haze known as “laze” that contained microscopic shards of glass that is very dangerous to breathe.

Hawaii Tourism leaders say there no danger. They pointed out only a very small and remote region of Hawaii Islands is effected. Tourists should enjoy the beaches and nature.

As of earlier today trade winds had been blowing these poison clouds into the ocean, but also today trade winds shifted a little. The air quality currently in Hilo on Hawaii Island is good, the air quality in Kona and Waikoloa on Hawaii Island is acceptable; however, for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

Air quality anywhere on Oahu including Waikiki and Kauai is extremely good, but a quiet alarm is coming from an island that so far was not affected by the volcanic explosion, the Island of Maui. With the largest concentration of resort hotels, Maui is also the pulse for the Hawaii Tourism industry. Any disruption could have economic consequences for the entire State of Hawaii.

Air Quality Hawaii YELLOW: Moderated Brown: Unhealthy for some
Air Quality Hawaii YELLOW: Moderated Brown: Unhealthy for some

The more alarming message from Maui is that currently the air quality in both resort areas Kihei and Kaanapali is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people.

The official version: Although the general public is not likely to be affected at the current air quality range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.

Volcanic air is currently blowing to the neighbor island of Maui. This is known as a condition of vog.

Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight.

Vog has always been in Hawaii since the first outbreack of the Big Island volcano. Vog may cause asthma and uncomfortable condition. The presence of vog has been a more major issue in Kona over the years, but at times a softer version of vog could be felt even on the island of Oahu at times after trade wind shifts. How dangerous this vog is after the recent volcanic eruption is not clear.

Today in Maui officials posted a message to the health department website:
In the event of vog conditions, the department recommends that you:

• Reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing. Avoiding outdoor activity and exercise during vog conditions can reduce exposure and minimize health risks. This is especially important for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic lung and heart disease.

• Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If an air conditioner is used, set it to recirculate.

• Always keep medications on hand and readily available. Daily prescribed medications should be taken on schedule and may provide protection from the effects of sulfur dioxide. Contact a doctor as soon as possible if any health problems develop.

• Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke.

• Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

• Develop family emergency plans as a precaution.

To learn more about emergency preparedness or to sign up for Maui County’s Maka’ala alert system, call 808-270-7285 or visit mauicounty.gov/70/Emergency-Management-Agency

The good news is at 655pm on Tuesday the air quality on Maui went back to moderate indicating another this time welcoming shift in the trade winds.

eTN reached out to Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Governors office, but no response was received.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.