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Vog Busters

Spider plants, cheesecloth and tea.

February 2, 2012
Debra Lordan - Editor/General Manager , The Maui Weekly

Purple haze all in my brain. Lately things just don't seem the same.

Lately, I feel like a fragile flower. The vog to which I thought I was immune has caused a coughing, lung-burning, throat-scratching, head-clouding, eye-irritating, upper respiratory eruption of my own for the past several weeks.

Although Kilauea Volcano has been in near-constant activity since history began and has continued its uninterrupted eruption since January 1983, it seems that only after the new Kilauea vent at Halema'uma'u exploded open in March 2008 that breathing got bad for the Neighbor Islands.

Just about every corner of the state has had markedly heavier episodes of vog since the vent started emitting metric tons of sulfur dioxide daily, in addition to the metric tons a day emitted by Kilauea's Pu'u 'O'o vent-the one that originally started up in 1983.

By the time the Hawai'i Island's vog plume visits the Neighbor Islands, it contains ammonium sulfate, which can trigger an asthmatic response and other symptoms in sensitive individuals.

But according to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park information, it is possible to reduce the concentration of ammonium sulfate in your home or office. Because it is very soluble in water, all you have to do is drape a wet cheesecloth or towel over the face of a fan, which will draw air through the cloth, depositing the ammonium sulfate on it. The compound will immediately dissolve on the towel, leaving the air much cleaner. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will work as well, although at a higher energy cost.

The volcano experts recommend drinking plenty of water to clear the particles from your lungs and flush the inhaled sulfur compounds from your body. Hot caffeinated teas containing theophyliine, a bronchial dilator, also help. Vog Buster Tea made by Healing Dragons and Uncle Kimo's Vog Tea are blended specifically for relieving vog symptoms. I found immediate relief from Vog Buster, available at Whole Foods for about $6 for 16 bags.

The Big Island folks also tell us that indoor plants-especially spider plants-help clean the air.

So how long will the current eruption last? If we rely on geologic records, it could continue for several more decades or even a century. So whenever trade winds are weak, we will continue to inhale the volcano goddess' perfume.

Since Pele's Kilauea has the singular distinction of being the world's most active volcano, it's apparent that we must find a way to live with her



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