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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Multitude of Isles' maladies vog's fault


By Lee Cataluna

Everybody has itchy eyes. There are a lot of runny noses at school and work cubicles smell of Ricola.

The effects of the recent spate of vog are everywhere. What used to be an unusual condition has become frequent in recent years, and that irritating vog cough is now a common complaint.

So common, in fact, that there is the temptation to chalk up a long list of maladies to the effects of hot, hazy days thick with volcanic emissions. Rashes, joint pain, short tempers, toenail fungus every irritation seems tied to the windless gray-brown days.

My hair won't stay straight no matter how long I fry it with the flatiron. It's the vog. The cat is leaving clumps of hair on the sofa cushions. It's the vog.

Linda Lingle is spitting fire like an East Coast Rapper, calling Mufi Hannemann the one name that makes him crazy: "bully."

Whoa, gotta be the vog.

Vog has been around Hawai'i for centuries, but in 2008, a new opening in Halema'uma'u Crater greatly increased the sulfur production. So, yeah, it didn't used to be this bad when you were a kid. Plus, you're getting older and everything bothers you more. Double whammy.

On the University of Hawai'i-Hilo Web site called "Natural Hazards Hawaii," there are photos of plants affected by vog. The ginger leaves look all brown and burnt and sickly. And that's ginger, the kind of plant you can throw in your back yard, forget to water and have a thick hedge growing over the cesspool in no time. From the UHH Web site:

"Vog is unpleasant to anyone, and can produce headaches as well as irritation to the lungs and eyes at higher concentrations. For people with asthma and other respiratory problems, the effects are much more serious, making it very difficult to breathe. To date, there's been no clear evidence vog causes lingering damage to healthy individuals."

Still, when the trade winds return and the skies clear, the scratchy vog symptoms seem to linger. The UHH Web site suggests saturating a hand towel with a thin paste of baking soda and water and draping it over a table fan on medium speed, being careful not to get the fan motor wet. Not sure if that will help the hair frizzies or the Lingle/Hannemann war of words, but it's supposed to help you breathe, and the weather forecasts say we've got more voggy days ahead.