The Kilauea volcano continues to erupt on Hawaii's Big Island, and people in its vicinity are being warned not to breathe in the lava haze, or "laze," that results when lava mixes with seawater.
When lava is cooled by seawater, a glass forms. When that glass shatters, tiny shards are picked up by clouds of steam. Those clouds contain hydrochloric acid, which is also formed when lava and seawater mix. Hydrochloric acid can irritate the skin and eyes and make it hard to breathe. While laze "looks innocuous, it's not," Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told The Associated Press.
Masks that are being passed out to local residents can keep out volcanic ash, but cannot filter the hydrochloric acid. Authorities are also warning people to stay far away from where the lava is entering the ocean, as waves can wash over the lava and send scorching hot water onto the shore. So far, the lava has destroyed about 40 homes, and officials have moved 50,000 gallons of flammable gas that had been stored at a geothermal plant near one of the volcano's vents.