"Get Inside!" - A Toxic "Lava Haze" Is Drifting Over Hawaii

Lava has been flowing from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano - and in some areas it has been bubbling up from fissures in the ground - for nearly two weeks.

Smog billowing from the volcano has choked residents down wind, and lava has swallowed homes and buildings in expensive neighborhoods, causing millions of dollars in property damage.


And now a new threat is emerging: Lava flowing from the volcano is running into the Pacific Ocean where it forms clouds of hot, toxic fog that have, in the past, proven lethal.

According to ABC News, lava pouring from two fissures in Hawaii's Puna district has crossed Highway 137 and entered the ocean, creating a hazardous plume that is stretching skyward along the island's southeastern coast.

The lava haze, or "laze" as the Daily Caller described it, is composed of hydrochloric acid gas and tiny volcanic glass particles mixed together in a plume of hot steam. Low concentrations of the stuff can cause irritation of whatever body part it touches. It can also form into clouds that drop acid rain, according to the US Geological Survey.


As ABC 7 pointed out, while it might seem like lava would pose less of a threat once it reaches the ocean, in reality, its meeting with the water introduces new dangers. Because the wind can carry the lave to remote locations, it can threaten people both on the land and on water.

The gas contributed to two deaths back in 2000, according to the DC.

"This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows," USGS states.

The US Coast Guard has set up a lave entry zone to help ships navigate around it.

Scientists said the acid in the plume was about as corrosive as diluted battery acid. The glass was in the form of fine glass shards. Getting hit by it might feel like being sprinkled with glitter.

"If you're feeling stinging on your skin, go inside," Stovall said. Authorities warned that the plume could shift direction if the winds changed.

The Coast Guard said it was enforcing a safety zone extending 984 feet (300 meters) around the ocean entry point.

They're also monitoring an area near MacKenzie State Recreation Area where lava flowed into the ocean.


During the nighttime and early morning, winds typically push the "laze" out over the ocean, creating problems for ship crews that drift into its path.

From mid-morning to late afternoon, trade winds run parallel to the coast or inland, potentially moving toxic clouds toward residential areas. Mount Kilauea erupted twice over the weekend, causing the first serious injury from the volcano's eruptions. A man standing on his home’s third-floor balcony was hit by a "lava bomb" - otherwise known as lava spatter. The spatter hit his lower leg, shattering everything from the shin down. Lava spatter can weigh as much as a refrigerator and "even tiny pieces" can kill.

On Sunday, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported two large explosions of ash from the summit, following an initial large eruption last Thursday.

“At any time, activity may again become more explosive..."

There have been, by the latest count, 22 fissures that have opened up in the area surrounding Mt. Kilauea. And unfortunately for residents of the area, there's no telling when the lava will stop flowing.