We are happy to continue our tradition of April-1 stories that are almost true. Some of the science is correct – although we do NOT recommend sulphur-sniffing! April-1 should be a time of happiness. If you would like to re-read our previous ‘almost true’ stories
The USGS Volcano Observatories: can we save VDAP? (star comment: You evil @^?!?!”*)****!!!! xD)
And now for this year’s ‘skirting the truth’. The idea and story came from Lughduniense, Ass. Prof Carol Stewart does exist and so does the quoted paper (we left out one crucial word from the title), but it contains none of the ascribed content. The other listed papers and content are real. Roman Abramovich was unable to comment (as we forgot to tell him about this post). The air hostesses in the Kremlin are not made up! At least not by us.
The health benefits of volcanoes are rarely discussed. Most research (and most VC commentary) focusses on the dangers associated with large quantities of liquid rock being ejected explosively from the ground. If that wasn’t enough, the sulphur emissions can not only cause worldwide winter, but also impact people’s health in more direct ways. And only Coffee Arabica stands against that: it requires volcanoes to produce its best crops, and it brings healthy economic benefits to the volcanic region and its inhabitants. But overall, volcanoes are not considered to be good for health. Until now.
Research published today in the Journal of Social Volcanology challenges the conventional view of the dangers of volcanic activity. The authors (led by Professor Carol Stewart, New Zealand) instead find evidence for significant health benefits associated with volcanoes. The paper has as title Volcanic air and human health.
The scientists started with studying the health of people with a variety of interests in volcanoes. They targeted 368 people involved with volcano tourism, volcano viewing (both remote and face-to-face), and volcano science. For the latter, they studied volcanologists working at volcano observatories across the world. The research covered both mental and physics health using questionnaires . These were followed up for a randomly selected subset of the patients with a health check carried out by local GPs.
The results were positive for all investigated groups.
A positive outcome for mental health was not unexpected, and in fact the team had predicted this. It mirrors what has been found in the general population for people with an absorbing hobby. All targeted groups reported high levels of happiness and satisfaction with life. The authors point out that the surveys included a period of high volcanic activity during 2021. This may have caused a positive bias: a similar survey during an extended lull in volcanic activity could have found different results. However, on the question how the level of happiness had changed in recent years, 65% reported it had remained the same. The authors recommend repeating the survey once the volcano forecasts indicate the likelihood of a year without major eruptions.
The survey found that people with volcanic interests were more socially active than those in a non-volcanic control group. This surprising finding was particularly strong in people involve with volcano tourism and high also for volcano viewers, regardless whether this was remote or face-to-face. The scientist conclude that volcanoes are a so-called social hobby, which brings about social interactions with people with similar interests. They write “Volcanoes evoke a strong sense of place. Volcanic communities often have a very strong bond with ‘their’ volcano and assign strong symbolic meanings to their environment. […] This community becomes their family and friends”.
There was one notable exception to this: volcanologists reported a significantly lower level of social activity.
Next, the study investigated physical health. Here the results were mostly positive, but it showed a more mixed picture. There was a marked difference between ‘remote’ (on-line) and ‘face-to-face’ (proximity) volcano viewing, with the survey showing fewer health problems for the latter group. The scientists expressed surprise about this, because of the relatively high levels of sulphur pollution that this group was subject to. The follow-up physical examinations (53 people) indicated a high level of physical fitness in this group compared to the ‘remote’ viewers. The paper suggests that it may be related to regular hiking in areas with large altitude differences. On the negative side, there was some indication of impaired judgement regarding risk taking (this was particularly high among volcanologists), but this was countered by an above average ability for high speed running. The remote watchers showed poorer health, indicative of a more sedentary life style. They also showed a higher rate of near-sightedness.
Volcano tourists formed an older group with more health problems, but they were still above average health-wise for their age bracket, with even some indication for increased life expectancy.
In the last part of the study, the authors collated population statistics for people living near areas of volcanic activity. The prediction was for enhanced health problems and a slightly reduced life expectancy, caused by the cumulative effect of exposure to volcanic SO2. In fact, they found the opposite effect. They repeated the work for different areas around the world, but with the same result.
The study took place during the covid epidemic and this had a significant impact on the outcomes. It appears that volcanic emissions reduce the effect of the corona virus. This finding has attracted worldwide attention today.
The figure (taken from the paper) shows the corona incidence in Italy during the first phase of the epidemic when the north of the country was worst affected. The area around Naples had a notably low incidence rate compared to other provinces in south-central Italy. This was in spite of the high population density in Naples (amplified by a high level of resistance to government regulation) which would have made the area much more susceptible during this phase of the epidemic. The finding was repeated in Indonesia, where a notably low incidence of covid was found around Iljen, and in Yogyakarta near Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. The latter had also be seen in an earlier study on covid mitigation strategies in Indonesia.
The team looked at two further volcanic areas. The first was Iceland, during the Reykjanes eruption. Iceland turned out to have the lowest fatality rate of any European nation by some distance, with particularly low rates during the 6-month eruption.
The final case study was for the island of La Palma, which had a large eruption between August and December 2021. Four days after the eruption ended on Dec 13, the infection rate went up sharply, showing the eruption has strongluy suppressed infection levels. This was seen in all nearby islands!
The team explained their finding as due to low-level exposure to sulphur. Several studies have already shown that sulphur can reduce the replication of viruses (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41557-021-00882-0), and at least one study had found that it inhibits the passage of the covid-19 virus through the cell membrane into the cell https://scitechdaily.com/chemists-discover-a-sulfur-molecule-to-block-the-sars-cov-2-coronavirus/ .
The study in the Journal of Social Volcanology has for the first time shown that this effect persists in the real world. There are few places in the world with continuous volcanic activity within densely populated areas, and viral epidemics of high severity are rare. The last two years provided a unique opportunity to see the antiviral effects of volcanoes.
The study has attracted immediate interest. Professor Oppenheimer (Cambridge) commented that it was very nice to see volcanoes as a cause for health rather than a source of disaster!
VC is of course delighted to see this strong scientific evidence for the health benefits of volcanoes. Live long and prosper!
[The paper is: Volcanic air and human health: recent advances and future directions. C. Stewart and collaborators, April 1, 2022, Journal of Social Volcanology (Springer), Volume 84, article 11]
Mutnovsky volcano: The Volcano Café Sulphur Spa Resort™ at the End of the Pandemic
Where science leads, Volcano Café follows. We were first contacted about this study exactly a year ago, and we were kept informed by the team as their results came in. VC aims to benefit our community. We therefore developed a plan to make the health benefits of volcanoes available to more people. A wealthy benefactor offered to make our plans reality.
We are hereby announcing The Volcano Café Sulphur Spa Resort™, for the essential Antiviral Treatment at the End of the Pandemic (ATEP). It will provide the experience of a world-class (and safe) volcanic landscape. It will provide all visitors with the three-fold health benefits: the VC-Spa treatment, second, the outdoor experience, and third, daily viewing of volcanic activity.
The Volcano Café Sulphur Spa Resort™ is located on the volcanic plateau of south Kamchatka, and is at the northeastern foot of Mutnovsky volcano, a mile from the geothermal plant. The volcano forms a short ridge with four summit craters of which one remains active. The mild eruptions often lead to steam clouds above the mountain. The landscape here is a volcanic wonder, a fantastic mosaic of fumaroles, mineral-rich hot pools, and geyser activity, known as the Valley of Geysers. It is one of the secret wonders of the world. Outdoor activities include hiking, bear watching and ice cave exploration.
We can also reveal that the benefactor (and site owner) is no other than Roman Abramovich. We met him when we visited Mutnovsky a good year ago on a secret mission to see if this was the most ideal place for our early plans for our Volcano Café Spa Resort™ at the End of the Pandemic.
When we first noticed Abramovich, he was bending over with his nose above one of the fumaroles and was inhaling the sulphur fumes profoundly. We walked up to him and asked whether he knew how sulphur might be the solution to the coronavirus pandemic. “Sure I know,” he said. “Why else would I be here doing this!” Then he told us that an acquaintance was researching this, Professor Carol Stewart. We were pleasantly surprised to find out we had a mutual friend, and soon we were sitting at the edge of the crater with a bottle of vodka, talking about all things volcanic and had a wonderful click. When we told him about our plans, he immediately was very enthusiastic. He offered us his help to clear the bureaucratic hurdles, and asked if we had completed the financing. “Partly. We want to start small but expect that a healthy stream of volcanoholic sulphur enthusiasts will soon get us out of the initial costs”.
In the weeks that followed, we had a lot of contact with Abramovich. We sent our drawings and plans while he talked to the bureaucrats in Kamchatka. He insisted we should go big right away, “the sooner Covid is out of the world, the better”. He offered to become a partner. We were a bit taken by surprise, but given all the good things he had done as owner of Chelsea, we had little reason to doubt his motives. And frankly, his offer came at just the right time, as the bank was not as forthcoming with finance as we had hoped.
The project gained momentum and within weeks all paperwork and permits were in place and construction had already begun. By the end of the year the buildings were nearly finished and even the pool construction was well underway. We planned to surprise you all in a few weeks with the announcement of the Grand Opening in May.
But then disaster struck, when Russia decided to invade Ukraine. Immediately everything has ground to a halt. The airspace was closed, the ruble collapsed, assets were frozen, and all foreign traffic became impossible. At the moment, politics and travel restrictions means that the Kamchatka region is out of bounds to the large majority of our readers. Unless from Cuba or some other ‘friendly state’, no foreigners can enter Russia.
Worse, we cannot even import the parts to finish the Finnish sauna, and the massage tables we had ordered for the Spa have been confiscated by the FSB who needed them for a group of air hostesses they have employed in the Kremlin…
We hope that this ridiculous war is over soon while we trust in our friend to help further the talks and strike a peace deal soon – because just like us he cannot wait to see the ATEP solution to get us out of the pandemic. Until then, some delay to the opening is regrettably needed. However, we will keep you posted about the development of The Abramovich-VC Volcano Café Sulphur Spa Resort™, and our plans to use volcanoes to make the world a healthier place.
1 April 2022