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Principal Investigator: Claire Horwell, Durham University


Get an overview of this research study and its findings in this research snapshot.



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

The study aimed to investigate respiratory protection (facemasks) used in volcanic eruptions. Through a clinical trial and laboratory experiments, the research team sought to establish whether some forms of protection were better than others, and if some protection is better than no protection. The research also aimed to explore behavioural factors influencing mask use in different societies, and help inform how advice about protection should be modified for different cultures, climates and economies.

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The study successfully completed laboratory testing of a number of facemasks, and undertook wearability trials of masks amongst communities affected by volcanic ash. Social surveys were completed in three country settings – Indonesia, Mexico and Japan – alongside anthropological research to explore behavioural factors and how to tailor effective messages around protection. A wide range of communication products and guidance on the use of facemasks has been produced and disseminated, and train-the-trainer courses have been delivered and tested in Indonesia.

The study had intended to undertake a clinical trial in Japan to test the respiratory outcomes of wearing different facemasks, amongst patients with asthma living close to an active volcano. The trail was not able to be undertaken, but the study team instead designed two epidemiology protocols for rapid deployment in future eruptions and a clinical protocol for laboratory-based work to test the health benefits of wearing masks when exposed to ash.

Key Findings:

  • Laboratory experiments demonstrated that some forms of respiratory protection are more effective against volcanic ash than others.
  • Whilst all types of respiratory protection studied provided some level of protection, this varied greatly depending on the material.
  • The social research found that contextual factors influence the motivation to use respiratory protection during eruptions and these should be taken into account when agencies and governments develop communication strategies to promote mask use and other protective actions.

Key outputs:

  • 10 peer reviewed articles have been published, and a further 7 are planned
  • New epidemiology protocols published on the IVHHN and HIVE websites
  • New guidelines on facemask use:
  • 6 videos, pamphlets, leaflets and posters on protecting yourself from volcanic ash
  • Supplement of PAHO’s Bulletin, on the HIVE study, planned for late 2019.

To view all of the outputs, including academic publications associated with this study, please visit the HIVE website here.

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Practical Tools & guidance

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

How to protect yourself from breathing volcanic ash


Peer Reviewed Disaster Risk Reduction, Ethics Related

Facemask use for community protection from air pollution disasters: An ethical overview and framework to guide agency decision making

Peer Reviewed Disaster Risk Reduction

Carers’ perceptions of harm and the protective measures taken to safeguard children’s health against inhalation of volcanic ash: A comparative study across Indonesia, Japan and Mexico

Peer Reviewed Disaster Risk Reduction

Air Pollution Disasters: Liability Issues in Negligence Associated With the Provision of Personal Protective Interventions (Facemasks)

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

Merapi multiple: Protection around Yogyakarta’s celebrity volcano through masks, dreams, and seismographs

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

Health Impact Assessment of Volcanic Ash Inhalation: A Comparison With Outdoor Air Pollution Methods

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

Community perceptions of protective practices to prevent ash exposures around sakurajima volcano, Japan

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

Latest Updates

New video: Facemasks for volcanic ash protection

Apr 2021

HIVE have released a new video with captions in English, French, Spanish and Indonesian to share what they found to be the best face coverings to protect against volcanic ash.


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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