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Principal Investigator: Claire Horwell, Durham University


Volcanic ash inhalation can trigger respiratory disease and cause acute anxiety, leading to increased vulnerability during eruptions. Agencies distribute face masks which, likely, have poor facial seals and inadequately filter fine-grained particles. High-efficiency masks, though, may under perform if not fit-tested, are costly and uncomfortable.

We ask:

  1. Are some types of respiratory protection more effective in a volcanic crisis than others (and is some protection better than no protection)?
  2. How should generic advice be modified for different cultures, climates and economies? In the first study of its kind, we will determine the effectiveness of a range of ‘masks’ from clothing to commercial respirators (through laboratory testing), whether mask wearing has a measurable impact on respiratory health (through a randomized clinical trial); and explore behavioural factors influencing mask use in different societies (through social surveys and interviews).

Expected Outcomes

This research will transform humanitarian practice during volcanic crises. Providing robust evidence on effective respiratory protection interventions will allow GOs and NGOs to make informed decisions when procuring, distributing and recommending protection. Our findings will be translated into official guidance, facilitating rapid, global change in practice. This will be actioned by our primary humanitarian partner, PAHO (a regional office of the WHO).

WHO is the first port of call for definitive advice that GOs and NGOs seek in health-related decision-making during crises. The recommendations will be disseminated on WHO’s website and mailing list (to 27,000 experts worldwide) and through the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network’s website (www.ivhhn.org; the umbrella organisation for all volcanic health-related research and dissemination). In addition, we will produce and distribute ‘toolkits’ for use by local communities and agencies, instructing them on how to best protect themselves from volcanic ash inhalation.

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Peer Reviewed Disaster Risk Reduction, Disease (Communicable & Non-communicable)

Factors motivating the use of respiratory protection against volcanic ashfall: a comparative analysis of communities in Japan, Indonesia and Mexico

Peer Reviewed Disaster Risk Reduction, Disease (Communicable & Non-communicable)

Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions – Community Wearability Assessment of Respiratory Protection against Volcanic Ash from Mt Sinabung, Indonesia

Peer Reviewed Disease (Communicable & Non-communicable)

The effectiveness of respiratory protection worn by communities to protect from volcanic ash inhalation. Part I: Filtration efficiency tests

Peer Reviewed Disease (Communicable & Non-communicable)

The effectiveness of respiratory protection worn by communities to protect from volcanic ash inhalation. Part II: Total inward leakage tests

Manual Disaster Risk Reduction, Disease (Communicable & Non-communicable)

How to protect yourself from breathing volcanic ash

Latest Updates

Learn more about HIVE

Mar 2019

HIVE is a research consortium that aims to build a new, and urgently required, evidence base on the effectiveness and suitability of different forms of respiratory protection for general population use during volcanic crises.


Authority and volcanoes (Mexico)

Jul 2016

Volcanoes are sites in which tensions arise over what to do in case of disasters — the notion of what is a disaster can be conceived in so many different…


Introducting HIVE

Dec 2015

In November 2015 I attended a five-day workshop to launch the Health Intervention in Volcanic Eruptions (HIVE) project. My name is Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and my role in the project is…

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