“Extremely high levels” of sulfur dioxide have been detected

Destructive molten flows weren’t the only concern.

The Hawaii County Fire Department reported “extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas” were detected in evacuation areas after the volcanic eruption.

Volcanic eruptions can release potentially dangerous sulfur dioxide, and exposure to high levels of it could be life-threatening, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Breathing large amounts of sulfur dioxide could result in burning of the nose and throat and breathing difficulties, the agency says.

Senior citizens, the young and people with respiratory issues have extra incentive to leave the evacuation zone, because they are especially vulnerable to the gas, the state’s Emergency Management Agency said.