Principal Investigator: Claire Horwell, Durham University
The HIVE study investigated respiratory protection (facemasks and other cloth materials), to establish whether some forms of protection against volcanic ash were better than others, and if some protection is better than none.
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. 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 trial 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.
Humanitarian agencies and governments involved in preparedness planning for volcanic eruptions (and other air pollution crises) should consider the effectiveness of various types of facemasks before procurement and distribution. The most effective respiratory protection for adults is a well-fitting, industry-certified facemask such as an N95 mask (also called P2, FFP2 or DS2 in different parts of the world). Certifications are printed on the mask. Surgical masks are less effective protection, especially when not well-fitted to the face.
If masks are recommended or provided, it should be alongside information on likely effectiveness and how to maximize fit. The HIVE project has co-produced informational products, with communities, for this purpose. Moreover, practitioners providing masks should consider that people wearing surgical masks may feel safe, and reduce other protective measures, potentially increasing their health risks from breathing ash.
When designing interventions, it is important to develop targeted approaches for communities, considering what will motivate people to protect themselves.
To view all of the outputs, including academic publications associated with this study, please visit the HIVE website here.
This study was selected by the R2HC for our Impact Case Study series. The case study is now available to view online.View
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.View
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.View
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…View
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…View
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