Assessment of leachable elements in volcanic ashfall: A review and evaluation of a standardized protocol for ash hazard characterization

Carol Stewart, David E. Damby, Ines Tomasek, Claire J. Horwell, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Maria Aurora Armienta, Maria Gabriela Ruiz Hinojosa, Moya Appleby, Pierre Delmelle, Shane Cronin, Christopher J. Ottley, Clive Oppenheimer, Suzette Morman

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Volcanic ash presents a widespread and common hazard during and after eruptions. Complex interactions between solid ash surfaces and volcanic gases lead to the formation of soluble salts that may be mobilized in aqueous environments. A variety of stakeholders may be concerned about the effects of ash on human and animal health, drinking water supplies, crops, soils and surface runoff. As part of the immediate emergency response, rapid dissemination of information regarding potentially hazardous concentrations of soluble species is critical. However, substantial variability in the methods used to characterize leachable elements makes it challenging to compare datasets and eruption impacts. To address these challenges, the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network ( organized a two-day workshop to define appropriate methods for hazard assessment. The outcome of this workshop was a ‘consensus protocol’ for analysis of volcanic ash samples for rapid assessment of hazards from leachable elements, which was subsequently ratified by leading volcanological organizations. The purpose of this protocol is to recommend clear, standard and reliable methods applicable to a range of purposes during eruption response, such as assessing impacts on drinking-water supplies and ingestion hazards to livestock, and also applicable to research purposes. Where possible, it is intended that the methods make use of commonly available equipment and require little training. To evaluate method transferability, an interlaboratory comparison exercise was organized among six laboratories worldwide. Each laboratory received a split of pristine ash, and independently analyzed it according to the protocol for a wide range of elements. Collated results indicate good repeatability and reproducibility for most elements, thus indicating that the development of this protocol is a useful step towards providing standardized and reliable methods for ash hazard characterization. In this article, we review recent ash leachate studies, report the outcomes of the comparison exercise and present a revised and updated protocol based on the experiences and recommendations of the exercise participants. The adoption of standardized methods will improve and facilitate the comparability of results among studies and enable the ongoing development of a global database of leachate information relevant for informing volcanic health hazards assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number106756
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020


  • volcanic ash
  • leachable elements
  • Hazard assessment


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