Articles | Volume 16, issue 1
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 29–40, 2016
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 29–40, 2016

Research article 18 Jan 2016

Research article | 18 Jan 2016

PM10 measurements in urban settlements after lava fountain episodes at Mt. Etna, Italy: pilot test to assess volcanic ash hazard to human health

D. Andronico1 and P. Del Carlo2 D. Andronico and P. Del Carlo
  • 1Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Osservatorio Etneo, Piazza Roma 2, 95125 Catania, Italy
  • 2Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di Pisa, Via Della Faggiola 32, 56126 Pisa, Italy

Abstract. We have carried out a preliminary study on the potential risks caused by the sub-10 µm fraction of volcanic ash (particulate matter, PM10) after the basaltic explosive eruptions from Mt. Etna volcano (Italy), which have dramatically increased in frequency over the last 20 years. We present results deriving from the study of the ash concentration in the air following the lava fountain episode from the New Southeast Crater of Etna on 15 November 2011, which caused tephra fallout over the eastern slope of the volcano. Short-duration tests of PM10 measurements were carried out at three different sites using a TSI® DustTrakTM aerosol monitor a few hours after the end of the eruption, and readouts of the air quality were repeated at the same sites a month later without volcanic activity. Furthermore, ash samples were characterized by grain size, componentry and morphological and petrochemical analyses.

By comparing PM10 levels measured a few hours after the 15 November lava fountain and on 15 December, we found that relatively low amounts (500–1500 g m−2) of tephra fallout cause high levels of PM10 in the air. This is because the coarse particles, particularly basaltic ash, are readily broken up by traffic and hence remobilized into the air. We believe the impact from ash fallout in the Etnean territory should receive greater attention, especially regarding potential health problems. Simple but effective actions can be implemented to reduce eventual risks, first and foremost the prompt removal of the ash deposits from the urbanized areas.

Short summary
The paper focuses on the potential health risks caused by the sub-10 micron fraction of volcanic ash (PM10) following explosive eruptions of Mt. Etna (Italy). We present the results of a study on the ash concentration in the air of urbanized areas after the 15 November 2011 lava fountain and the related tephra fallout, causing high levels of PM10 in the air. We conclude by hoping that due attention will be given to the impact of ash fallout on the Etnean territory in the future.
Final-revised paper