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Health implications of the Mount St. Helens' eruption: epidemiological considerations.
Merchant JA; Baxter P; Bernstein R; McCawley M; Falk H; Stein G; Ing R; Attfield M
Ann Occup Hyg, Inhaled Particles V, 1982 Sep; 26(1-4):911-919
Health effects arising from the Mount Saint Helen eruption were evaluated in humans. Surveillance efforts initially concentrated on casualties. Thirty one bodies were recovered; 25 were in the tree blown down area. The most frequent cause of death was asphyxiation. The dense cloud of volcanic ash extended eastward over the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. A five community enviromental survey evaluated respirable dust exposure in a number of jobs directly involved with the cleanup operations. A number of samples were studied extensively for their free silica (14808607) content, fibers, and trace metals. Area sampling in schools, homes, commercial establishments, and enclosed automobiles found dust concentrations to be quite low. X-ray diffraction, infrared spectrophotometry, light microscopy, electron microscopy, and wet chemical methods revealed low concentrations of quartz, cristobalite (14464461), and tridymite (15468323). Free silica content varied from 3 to 7 percent, as determined from respirable dust samples. No fibers were identified nor was trace metal content found to be unusual. A clear increase in pulmonary admissions was noted within 1 week following the major eruption. Variation in dust contents occurred from one community to another. Early exposures of respirable dust reached as high as 5 milligrams per cubic meter among forestry workers. Eye irritation was a frequent complaint of loggers working in the ash exposed area. The authors conclude that loggers working the immediate area of the volcano run the greatest potential risk of long term effects of ash exposure.
NIOSH-Author; Biological-effects; Aerosol-particles; Airborne-particles; Respiratory-irritants; Research; Employee-exposure; Quantitative-analysis; Medical-surveys; Rescue-workers; Dust-analysis; Volcanic-ash
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV, U.S.A.
14808-60-7; 14464-46-1; 15468-32-3
Issue of Publication
Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Inhaled Particles V
WV; ID; MT; ND; WA
Page last reviewed: November 6, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division