Volcanic gas-ash interaction: an in vitro study of respiratory health hazard

Ines Tomasek, Claire J. Horwell, David E. Damby, Ana S. Casas, Paul M. Ayris, Christopher J. Ottley, Christoph Bisig, Alke Petri-Fink, Barbara Drasler, Martin J. D. Clift, Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Volcanic plumes are complex environments composed of gases, aerosols and ash,
where various chemical and physical reactions occur over a spectrum of temperatures and timescales. Commonly, soluble salts are formed, which adhere to ash surfaces, and are transported on the ash. Human exposure to inhalable volcanic ash following an eruption is a health concern, as it can result in acute adverse respiratory health effects, and we hypothesise that these salt coatings may be a cause, at least in part, of lung irritation.
The aim of our study is to gain a first understanding of the effects of salt-laden ash particles on respiratory health, using a 3D human lung model in vitro. To recreate chemical reactions between pristine ash surfaces and hot volcanic gases, analogue substrates (i.e. pulverised synthetic volcanic glass and natural pumice) were used in a novel Advanced Gas-Ash Reactor (AGAR). Rapid adsorption of SO2 at temperatures above 500°C results in the formation of surface anhydrite (CaSO4) in these experiments. A sophisticated multicellular lung model was then exposed to salt-laden and control glass and pumice particles for 24 hours. Cell cultures were subsequently assessed for biological endpoints including cytotoxicity, oxidative stress and (pro-)inflammatory response.
Following particle exposures, cytotoxicity and cell morphology were unchanged and
negative effects were also observed for the ability of investigated particles to induce a (pro-)infl ammatory response. It is envisaged that findings of this study will serve for a better understanding of the potential respiratory risk posed by salt-coated volcanic ash in populated areas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication7th International Conference on Medical Geology (MedGeo 2017). Conference Materials, 28 August – 01 September 2017, Moscow, Russia
PublisherPublishing House of I.M. Sechenov
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)978-5-89152-021-9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Volcanic gas-ash interaction: an in vitro study of respiratory health hazard'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this