Dr Ben Williamson

Lecturer in Applied Mineralogy

Camborne School of Mines
School of Geography, Archaeology & Earth Resources
University of Exeter - Cornwall Campus
Cornwall  TR10 9EZ
United Kingdom
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Research Expertise


Ben Williamson has been involved in two areas of volcanic health hazard research:

  1. Developing novel scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction methodologies for assessing mineralogy, grain size and elemental compositions of respirable airborne particulate.
  2. Theoretical studies into the toxicity of respirable silica particulate; mainly the role of piezoelectric effects.

Ben has been involved in studies carried out by Claire Horwell on respirable particulate from dome collapse eruptions on Montserrat. He has written a theoretical paper on the role of piezoelectric effects in the toxicity of silicas and is pioneering methodologies for assessing the size, shape, elemental and mineralogical properties of airborne particulate microsamples collected on filters using air pump apparatus.

Relevant Publications

Damby, D.E., Llewellin, E.W., Horwell, C.J., Williamson, B.J., Najorka, J., Cressey, G., & Carpenter, M.A. (2014) ‘The α-β phase transition in volcanic cristobalite’, J. App. Crystal, 47.

Horwell, C.J., Stannett, G.W., Andronico, D., Bertagnini, A., Fenoglio, I., Fubini, B., Le Blond, J.S., & Williamson, B.J. (2010) ‘A physico-chemical assessment of the health hazard of Mt. Vesuvius volcanic ash’, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 191: 222-232.

Le Blond, J.S., Cressey, G., Horwell, C.J. & Williamson, B.J. (2009) ‘A rapid method for quantifying single mineral phases in heterogeneous natural dust using X-ray diffraction’, Powder Diffraction, 24: 17-23.

Le Blond, J.S., Williamson, B.J., Horwell, C.J., Monro, A.K., Kirk, C.A. and Oppenheimer, C. (2008) ‘Production of potentially hazardous respirable silica airborne particulate from the burning of sugarcane’, Atmospheric Environment, 44, 5558-5568.

Horwell, C.J., Sparks, R.S.J., Brewer, T.S., Llewellin, E.W. and Williamson, B.J. (2003) ‘The characterisation of respirable volcanic ash from the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, with implications for health hazard’, Bulletin of Volcanology, 65: 346-362.

Williamson, B.J., Pastiroff, S., and Cressey, G. (2001) ‘Piezoelectric properties of quartz and cristobalite airborne particulates as a cause of adverse health effects’, Atmos. Env., 35, 3539-3542.


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Latest News


Download our pamphlets on preparing for ashfall and on the health hazards of ash. They are designed for mass distribution at the onset of new eruptions. They are now avaiable in English, Japanese, French Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, Indonesian and Icelandic with Italian versions being available shortly. Please see our Pamphlets page for further infomation.





IVHHN has an article under the Guidelines tab which used to be called 'Recommended Face Masks'. This has now been updated to 'Information on face masks' and is an interim page whilst the Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions project investigates which types of respiratory protection are effective in protecting the general population from volcanic ash inhalation. Please note that the translations in Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese have not yet been updated.



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