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Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2007 Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):9-14.

Acute impact of volcanic ash on asthma symptoms and treatment.

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Department of Medicine and Molecular Science, Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan.


Information about the impacts of disasters on health is useful for establishing hazard prediction maps and action plans of disaster management. This study aims at learning effective asthma management from the volcano disaster of Mount Asama eruption in Japan on September 1, 2004. We conducted a cross-sectional study to assess the acute impact of volcanic ash on asthma symptoms and their treatment changes by using a questionnaire completed by 236 adult asthmatic patients and their physicians. In the ashfall over 100g/m2 area, 42.9 percent of asthma patients suffered exacerbations, PEF decreased, asthma treatments increased, and inhalation of beta2 stimulants was used most for exacerbated asthma. Compared to severe asthma patients, mild and moderate asthma patients were most at risk. Severe asthma patients were not affected since most of them knew their asthma status was severe, and did not go outside and kept windows closed. Deteriorated asthma symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness and cough appeared in the ashfall over 100g/m2 area. Ash contained inhalable 10microm diameter particles, and included high concentrations of airway toxic substrates of silica. These data suggest that ashfall over 100 g/m2 is harmful, access to these areas by asthma patients needs to be restricted, and these areas need to improve asthma treatment. In addition, the increase in the proportion of asthma patients with wheeze and cough are diagnostic clues for ash-induced asthma in affected areas, and can be used by doctors to tell whether patients are receiving sufficient asthma treatment.

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