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Hawaii volcano poses a new threat: Acid from Kilauea's lava, called 'laze,' pouring into the ocean

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/21/2018 Chris Woodyard
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After destroying dozens of houses, lava from the Kilauea volcano has now reached the ocean, presenting a new health threat to Hawaii residents.

Civil defense authorities on Hawaii posted a warning to stay clear of any lava stream that is flowing into the ocean. When the super hot lava hits the cooler sea water, it produces what is called "laze," hydrochloric acid steam that pours into the air along with fine particles of glass.

"Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation," the agency said in a message to residents. "Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning."

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A dispatch Sunday from Civil Defense said two lava flows have reached the ocean, including at least one near MacKenzie State Park. As a result, Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road.

The threat comes as one of the first injuries as a direct result of lava flows was reported, a man who suffered a "serious" injury from lava splatter while sitting on the porch of his home, according to theHonolulu Star Advertiser. "I heard the injury was quite bad, serious to his leg," the newspaper quoted Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno as saying.

More than 20 fissures have opened since the volcano's latest activity began May 3 and are being tracked.

Yet, with more than 2,000 residents under evacuation, life largely goes on as normal on much of the Big Island. The tourism industry is still in full swing and the island's airports remain open.

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