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.
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.