Hawaii health officials warn Maui residents to avoid toxic ash

Following the August wildfires that decimated parts of Maui, the state's department of health issued a new warning Oct. 15 urging the public residents and visitors to avoid contact with toxic ash remnants. 

Preliminary testing of ash samples from Kula, one of the affected areas, revealed extremely high levels of arsenic, a news release noted. 

"The preliminary data indicate extremely high levels of arsenic in the ash, as well as elevated levels of lead and cobalt. While the presence of these substances is not unexpected, the concentration of arsenic in particular demonstrates the high toxicity of the ash and reinforces the importance of avoiding exposure to the ash," Kenneth Fink, MD, the Hawaii state health director stated in the release. "It is important to remember that people can take action to minimize their exposure to these contaminants including avoiding disruption of ash and wearing proper PPE when in impacted areas."

Dr. Fink also remarked that individuals near the affected areas should wash their hands frequently and keep surfaces clean from dust and ash as much as possible to reduce exposure risk. 

Health officials noted that they expect the samples from Kula to reflect the same makeup as ash in Lāhainā. Continued monitoring of both dust and air will continue to be conducted by the department over time.

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