Everyday, several tons of different compounds are produced by active volcanoes, that may or not pose hazard to humans, depending on their chemical composition, their physical characteristics (e.g. particle size), the way they are expelled, the proximity to humans and the time of exposure (acute vs. chronic). Furnas volcano is located in the eastern part of the island of São Miguel (Azores, Portugal), where volcanic activity is marked by several hydrothermal manifestations that emit continuously volcanic gases that are inhaled by the resident population (chronic exposure) or visitors (acute exposure) to that village. The fact is that various studies have already shown a relationship between living in volcanic active areas and the development of respiratory and non-respiratory pathologies, but studies regarding acute exposure are scarce.
Therefore, this work will have two different approaches with the aim to determine the health impact of acute exposure to a volcanic atmosphere, at non-cellular and cellular levels.
To investigate the cellular effects, volcanic gas condensate will be collected onsite (Furnas volcano) and send to chemical and physical characterization. Then, a cellular line from the respiratory epithelium (CORE) will be exposed to the collected volcanic gas condensate and cytotoxic and genotoxic assays will be taken before and after exposure.
To investigate the effects at non-cellular level, a group of 20 males volunteers will undertook a 30 minute exposure to the volcanic atmosphere of Furnas. Spirometry and oximetry measurements will be taken before and after exposure to investigate the effects of acute exposure.
It is imperative to inquire about this subject since Furnas village is constantly visited each day by numerous people that are unaware of the potential health impact that an acute exposure to a volcanic atmosphere can have. By combining results of both approaches, this study will try to answer to how severe this health impact can be.