Health Hazards And Disaster Potential Of Ground Gas Emissions At Furnas Volcano, Sao Miguel, Azores

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Journal Article: Health Hazards And Disaster Potential Of Ground Gas Emissions At Furnas Volcano, Sao Miguel, Azores

Abstract
A health hazard assessment of exposure to soil gases (carbon dioxide and radon) was undertaken in the village of Furnas, located in the caldera of an active volcano. A soil survey to map the area of soil gas flow was undertaken, gas emissions were monitored at fumaroles and in eight houses, and a preliminary radon survey of 23 houses in the main anomaly area was performed. Potential volcanic sources of toxic contamination of air, food, and water were also investigated, and ambient air quality was evaluated. About one-third (41 ha) of the houses were located in areas of elevated carbon dioxide soil degassing. Unventilated, confined spaces in some houses contained levels of carbon dioxide which could cause asphyxiation. Mean indoor radon levels exceeded UK and US action levels in the winter months. A tenfold increase in radon levels in one house over 2 h indicated that large and potentially lethal surges of carbon dioxide could occur without warning. Toxic exposures from the gaseous emissions and from contamination of soil and water were minimal, but sulphur dioxide levels were mildly elevated close to fumaroles. In contrast, evidence of dental fluorosis was manifested in the population of the nearby fishing village of Ribeira Quente where drinking water in the past had contained elevated levels of fluoride. The disaster potential of volcanic carbon dioxide in the area could also be associated with the hydrothermal system storing dissolved carbon dioxide beneath the village. Felt, or unfelt, seismic activity, or magma unrest, especially with a reawakening of explosive volcanic activity (30% probability in the next 100 years) could result in an increase in gas flow or even a gas burst from the hydrothermal system. A survey of all houses in Furnas is advised as structural measures to prevent the ingress of soil gases, including radon, were needed in some of the study houses. Evaluations of the human hazards of volcanic gases should be undertaken in all settlements in volcanic and hydrothermal areas associated with soil gas emissions.

Authors 
Peter J. Baxter, Jean-Claude Baubron and Rui Coutinho








Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 1999





DOI 
Not Provided
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Citation

Peter J. Baxter,Jean-Claude Baubron,Rui Coutinho. 1999. Health Hazards And Disaster Potential Of Ground Gas Emissions At Furnas Volcano, Sao Miguel, Azores. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .