Since the volcano Kilauea erupted on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 3, 36 structures in a nearby residential neighborhood have been destroyed by lava flows. The molten rock is pouring from at least 14 fissures in the volcano’s East Rift Zone, miles away from the summit. But the residents who were forced to evacuate now face a new threat: the sulfur dioxide gas that the volcano is releasing into the air.
Volcanic smog—or “vog”—occurs when sulfur dioxide and other gases from Kilauea Volcano interact with sunlight, oxygen, dust and moisture in the air, .
that trade winds will weaken on Thursday and Friday causing the vog to settle over the Big Island. If it rains during those days—which there is likely—it will become acid rain.
"Wherever you have a vog plume, you're going to have acid rain, if it's raining," University of Hawaii meteorologist Steven Businger .
While the vog can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat, causing respiratory illness and headaches in some individuals, the concentration of sulfuric acid in acid rain is not enough to cause a similar effect in humans, even if they swam in a lake contaminated with acid rain. However, acid rain can damage and kill plants in the surrounding forests, and it can pose a health hazard if it contaminates drinking water collected from rooftop rainwater-catchment systems, the .
"In 1988, the drinking water of nearly 40 percent of homes using such systems in the Kona Districts of the island was found to be contaminated with lead leached by acid rain," the . "Tests confirmed that the blood of some residents of these homes had elevated lead levels."
In addition, the in the coming weeks that could throw “ballistic projectiles” over six feet across, hurling the boulders up to 0.6 miles from the crater vent. So for residents of the Big Island, acid rain could actually be the least of their worries.