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From Dome to Disease: The Respiratory Toxicity of Volcanic Cristobalite

DAMBY, DAVID,ERNEST (2012) From Dome to Disease: The Respiratory Toxicity of Volcanic Cristobalite. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Exposure to fine-grained volcanic ash can potentially cause acute and chronic respiratory disease. The toxicity of ash is likely to vary depending on the type and style of eruption; eruptions at dome-forming volcanoes, in particular, can produce ash containing substantial quantities of respirable crystalline silica, a recognised human carcinogen and causative agent of silicosis. Volcanic domes crystallise crystalline silica as cristobalite, which is metastable at dome-forming temperatures (ca. 850 °C), through deposition from silica-saturated vapours and through devitrification of volcanic glass.

Five dome-forming volcanoes are studied to constrain the hazard posed by volcanic cristobalite, including: Colima, Mexico; Merapi, Indonesia; Mount St. Helens, USA; Santiaguito, Guatemala; and Unzen, Japan. The evolution of the cristobalite hazard is investigated from crystallisation in volcanic settings to its potential effect on biological systems, through a series of petrological, physicochemical and toxicological studies.

We rationalise the presence of metastable cristobalite below its stability field in all domes studied by way of a textural investigation, and conclude that the incorporation of aluminium and sodium into the silica structure facilitates crystallisation. Since particle toxicology is dependent on composition and structure, the observation of cation substitutions is expanded in a geochemical and thermodynamic investigation of volcanic cristobalite to constrain its mineralogy. We find that incorporation of 1-4 wt. % aluminium leads to a poorly-ordered cristobalite structure. This investigation facilitates a mineralogical comparison of the cristobalite hazard among volcanic locations and provides the framework for assessing volcanic cristobalite toxicity. We investigate the ability of volcanic ash to elicit an in vitro pro-inflammatory response, focusing on silica-mediated experiments, and relate the influence of structure and composition to the potential physiological burden. We find that volcanic cristobalite can be mineralogically considered as a single entity among locations, and that cristobalite-bearing ash is less toxic than expected. Nonetheless, we recommend that eruptions be considered on a case-by-case basis to most effectively aid the risk mitigation work of disaster managers globally.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Earth Sciences, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 May 2013 14:33

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