Illness and elevated human mortality in Europe coincident with the Laki Fissure eruption
Volcanic eruptions represent a significant source of volatile gases that are harmful to human health. This chapter reviews and develops current understanding of the human health response to volcanogenic pollution and dry fog events; in particular it explores the health impact of the gases from the Laki fissure eruption, and presents data that point to a significant increase in the national death rate in England coincident with the early phases of the eruption. It is noted that many common symptoms of severe exposure to air pollution can be linked to the dry fog of 1783; these included difficulty in breathing, eye and skin irritation, headaches, loss of appetite and tiredness.
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Humans have long marvelled at (and feared) the odorous and colourful manifestations of volcanic emissions, and, in some cases, have harnessed them for their economic value. The degassing process responsible for these phenomena is now understood to be one of the key factors influencing the timing and nature of volcanic eruptions. Moreover the surface emissions of these volatiles can have profound effects on the atmospheric and terrestrial environment, and climate. Even more fundamental are the relationships between the history of planetary outgassing, differentiation of the Earth’s interior, chemistry of the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and the origin and evolution of life. This book provides a compilation of 23 papers that investigate the behaviour of volatiles in magma, the feedbacks between degassing and magma dynamics, and the composition, flux, and environmental, atmospheric and climatic impacts of volcanic gas emissions.