Published October 21, 2014
Residents of Höfn are being advised to stay indoors as SO2 levels from the Holuhraun eruption reach uncomfortable levels.
The Icelandic Met Office reports exceptionally high levels of sulphur dioxide from the Holuhraun eruption washing over the southeast corner of the country. Höfn (pop. 2,166) is the most populated municipality in the area, where SO2 levels reached as high as 1.8 ppm, or about 5100 µg/m3.
MBL reports that residents were sent text messages advising them to stay indoors, close their windows, turn up their heaters and be alert for signs of SO2 poisoning.
Over the next 48 hours, the stream of SO2 will swing northwards and then westwards, and is forecast to reach Snæfellsnes by Thursday evening, if not sooner.
Sulphur dioxide can cause respiratory problems, especially at higher levels and for those with existing lung diseases. In 2008, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists set the maximum short-term exposure level at 5 ppm. However, the gas can also be damaging to plant and animal life, and is a contributing factor to acid rain.