Before the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980, there had been few systematic, epidemiological studies of natural disasters. The assessment of health effects through epidemiological questionnaire or medical examination is vital for the understanding of volcanic health hazards. Through epidemiological investigation, we can answer key questions regarding the effects of long-term exposure to volcanic ash and gas. We can establish whether observed symptoms are permanent or reversible and whether some subsets of the population are at greater risk than others. Epidemiological studies are carefully planned according to established methods and may span years or decades, requiring long-term follow up examinations and assessments of a population.
The potential diseases associated with long-term exposure to volcanic ash and gas may take several decades to emerge. For this reason long-term investment in epidemiological projects is required. To date, major epidemiological or medical studies have only been carried out on three volcanoes world-wide (Mount St Helens, USA; Soufriere Hills, Montserrat; and Sakurajima, Japan). There are many countries, such as the Philippines, which do not have the resources to fund projects of this type following volcanic crises. We hope that the existence of IVHHN will promote opportunities for collaborative projects of this type.
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.