If you’re researching eco friendly resorts in Hawaii, you’re probably looking to book a healthy and restorative retreat. Most eco friendly resorts in Hawaii vie to offer a tranquil escape from the incessant noise, chronic stress, and toxic air of modern life. Gingerhill is no exception. Our retreat is conducive to detoxification, relaxation, and revival.

However, all eco friendly resorts in Hawaii share a common obstacle: vog. If you’re from the mainland, you may have never heard of vog. But Big Islanders are all too familiar with the negative repercussions of exposure to vog, a local term for volcanic smog. The effects of vog on our bodies and our crops make cleansing and rejuvenation more difficult.

Do not allow the prevalence of vog to deter you from booking with eco friendly resorts in Hawaii or, for locals, from growing crops. With proper research and precautionary measures, you can still go on your dream vacation without suffering vog’s detrimental effects.

What is Vog?

Vog is the term we use to refer to volcanic smog. In Hawaii, vog emanates from the Big Island’s active volcano, Kilauea. The volcano’s emissions contain several toxic elements, primarily sulfur compounds, ammonium sulfates, ash, and heavy metals. One of the most dangerous components of vog, the one that scientists track to gauge potential health hazards, is sulfur dioxide. Wind currents carry these compounds to different areas of the Island, most significantly afflicting the Island’s west side.

When vog levels are high, the air becomes hazy. Vog haze is especially visible when viewing higher altitudes from sea level. It is vog that obscures the horizon on Hawaii’s west side, blurring the vivid colors of the beautiful Hawaiian sunset. However, the visibility of vog does not directly correlate with toxicity levels. In Kealakekua, for example, vog haze is exceptionally heavy, but sulfur dioxide levels are not as high as they are in other locations.

Is Vog Dangerous?

The answer is complex. The toxic compounds in vog would not cause acute harm unless you were to stand very close to the volcano for an extended period. However, low-level exposure over the course of days can negatively impact human health in multiple ways. Many people experience the effects of vog without ever realizing  where they originate.

Because vog introduces toxic compounds to the air we breathe, it is particularly harmful for those with respiratory complications, such as asthma, bronchitis, or allergies. It is also harmful for people with liver problems, poor immunity, or heart conditions, whose detoxification systems may already be weak. Vog causes general malaise, exacerbating depression and fatigue. It can even shorten your temper, as evidenced by the spike in domestic violence during high vog exposure. Particularly severe vog can cause headaches, watery eyes, flulike symptoms, and respiratory complications in healthy individuals.

Protecting Yourself From Vog

Unfortunately, Hawaii’s health infrastructure has proven largely unequipped to prevent and treat vog-related illness. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent negative reactions to vog.

Because vog is toxic, it can easily overburden the body’s detoxification system. Supporting your body’s natural detoxification process will ease the ill effects of toxic exposure. Drink detox teas, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and reduce exposure to other toxic substances. It is not a good idea to do heavy cleaning or drink alcohol when vog is heavy.

Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system, facilitating detoxification. However, you don’t want to overexert when vog levels are high, especially if you are active outdoors. If you are working outside, try to do your heaviest work early in the day. If you would like to exercise, try doing light cardio in an air-conditioned fitness facility.

Using a neti pot and eye drops can help prevent dry eyes and nose. To further protect your respiratory system, it is best to stay indoors, ideally in air conditioned spaces. Running an air purifier can be very helpful in combatting vog-related illness. However, if you are experiencing severe respiratory complications, it may be necessary to wear a mask and use an inhaler.

Vog and Plants

Humans are not the only life form adversely affected by vog. Plants, too, suffer disease and damage as a result of vog exposure.

Most diseases that afflict plants are pathogenic. Vog is one of the few abiotic, or non-livnig, causes of disease. Vog enters a plant through its stomata, interacting with water to produce sulfuric acid. This sulfuric acid, in turn, burns the plant from the inside. The resultant damage can be acute, emerging in hours or a few days after exposure. Plants that are chronically exposed to vog exhibit yellowing and decay. In high concetrations, vog can kill plants.

Scot Nelson and Kevin Sewake, in their study of the effects of volcanic emissions on plant life at the University of Hawaii, found that vog begins to effect plants at sulfur dioxide levels between .3 and .5 parts per million—just below the level at which they begin to affect humans. Once sulfur dioxide reaches these levels, seed germination and growth become impaired. As plants grow weaker, they become more vulnerable to other diseases.

Vog can even damage soil health. When vog interacts with moisture in the air, it produces acid rain that, in turn, acidifies the soil. Acidic soil translates to poor fertility and growth.

Preventing Vog Damage

Unfortunately, vog also has a negative impact on Hawaii’s agricultural economy. In 2008 and 2012, parts of the island were devastated by vog-related crop damage, resulting in huge losses for farmers. Vog also hurts sustainable farms and eco friendly resorts in Hawaii by complicating farm-to-table food supply. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect your plants from vog damage. Always rinse plants after exposure to acid rain or volcanic ash, preferably with a bicarbonate solution to neutralize acidity. If possible, cover plants or grow them in a greenhouse. Finally, you can use anti-transpirants to close the stomata of the plant, preventing the formation of sulfuric acid and subsequent crop damage.                                              `

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