© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc A file photo of Pele's hair covering Hawaiian ground.
Michelle Robertson 3 days ago
After a mandatory evacuation due to a lava eruption yesterday, Leilani Estates residents line up on the road leading to the area, Friday, May 4, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Due to unsafe conditions in the area, authorities were not allowing residents back to their homes, Friday. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
This May 1, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the eruption at the summit of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island. Dozens of earthquakes are rattling Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano as magma flows into a new area east of the Puu Oo vent. Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the increased activity Wednesday, May 2, 2018, is associated with the collapse of the crater floor at the Puu Oo vent. (U.S. Gelological Survey via AP)
This photo provided by Shane Turpin shows a cracked road after the eruption from Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island Friday, May 4, 2018. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing nearly 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (Shane Turpin/seeLava.com via AP)
In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, a plume of ash rises from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilaueaa Volcano Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, sending lava shooting into the air in a residential neighborhood and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for nearby homes. Hawaii County said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
This May 22, 2018 photo from video from an unpiloted aircraft provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, shows flow from what scientists call fissure 22 as lava from Kilauea Volcano continues to flow into the ocean, top, near the town of Pahoa, Hawaii. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
This May 1, 2018, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a small lava flow (lighter in color) and spatter that erupted from a section of the crack on the west flank of Puu Oo vent of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island. Dozens of earthquakes are rattling Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano as magma flows into a new area east of the Puu Oo vent. Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the increased activity Wednesday, May 2, 2018, is associated with the collapse of the crater floor at the Puu Oo vent. (U.S. Gelological Survey via AP)
Pele’s Hair is a collection of soft glass needles formed from volcanic eruptions. This batch was formed from the eruptions of Kilauea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.
Strands of potentially harmful volcanic glass are blanketing a slice of Hawaii’s Big Island that continues to contend with eruptions from the Kilauea volcano.
The spindly fibers, called Pele’s hair, began accumulating on the ground in Leilani Estates and surrounding neighborhoods after Kilauea first began erupting in May. Wind can carry the potentially harmful particles long distances, scientists warned.
Individual strands can measure up to 6 1/2 feet long, according to the United States Geological Survey, and may cause respiratory problems when inhaled. It can also find its way into rainwater that’s collected for drinking.
“If the filters aren’t fine enough to filter out the hair, then you can get hair in the water,” Don Swanson, a geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told Live Science. Pele’s hair, he said, can “inflame and irritate anything that comes in contact with it.”
Swanson said he hadn’t received reports of people or animals with Pele-related health issues from the recent eruptions.
Named for the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire, Pele’s hair forms from lava fountains and rapidly moving lava flows, such as lava cascading off a cliff.
USGS urged residents to minimize exposure to the volcanic particles to avoid irritation of the skin and eyes.
Lava from fiery Kilauea has destroyed more than 600 homes since early May. Earlier this week, officials began transitioning to recovery efforts and allowing some residents back into their homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Michelle Robertson is an SFGATE staff writer. Email her at email@example.com or find her on Twitter at @mrobertsonsf.
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