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Rabbit Air Extends a Breath of Fresh Air to Lahaina

On August 8, 2023, a devastating fire overtook the town of Lahaina, Hawaii, destroying thousands of structures and causing an estimated $5.5 billion in damage. At least 97 people were killed, and half a year later, residents continue to be affected by the toxic ash from the burn sites. Recognizing the adverse air quality conditions and their impact on the community, Rabbit Air took action by donating air purifiers to families, fostering a cleaner indoor air quality environment.

With the help of Dr. Gerard Livaudais, doctor of internal medicine, and Dr. Fely Livaudais, board member for Hawaii AAP, Rabbit Air was able to partner with local agencies who were able to identify families in need and assist in distributing the air purifiers. To understand more about how the fire is affecting families and how they're dealing with the changes, Rabbit Air had a chat with Dr. Gerard Livaudais.

Rabbit Air: How has the air quality changed due to the fire?

Dr. Gerard Livaudais: “The air quality is a definite concern in the immediate area of the burn zone, given the toxicity of the synthetic burn material. It is particularly a risk when the ashes and dust have been stirred up by either wind or activity (e.g. sifting or debris removal).”

Rabbit Air: Who is the most affected by the fire? What are their symptoms?

Dr. Gerard Livaudais: “Initially residents and first responders, then workers (e.g. debris removal teams). Besides acute inhalation injury, the air quality appears to have caused eye and throat irritation, and wheezing/shortness of breath in those with reactive airway disease. There is also concern about cancer risk that wouldn't show up for many years (e.g. world trade center survivors and workers).”

Rabbit Air: What relief efforts have been taken to help those affected?

Dr. Gerard Livaudais: “From early on, there's been a lot of public education about the risks of the ash and provision of PPE, including N95 masks for those going into the burn zone. Air monitors are set up across affected areas, particularly in areas adjacent to active work sites. They've been good, indicating there's not much particulate matter in the air. Air sampling is being conducted now; results are pending. Lastly, there is financial support for cleaning services to remove ash/dust from the inside of habitable structures too.”

Rabbit Air: How will the donated air purifiers help the families?

Dr. Gerard Livaudais: “Air purifiers are being donated to families living adjacent to the burn zone or moving back into habitable structures within the burn zone. Of course the families are anxious about their health risks and very, very grateful for these air purifiers. 

Lastly, some of the air purifiers went to Kula. Unlike Lahaina, many families returned home and currently live next door or across the street from flat lots that were once homes. Some of the Kula residents shared their stories of fighting fires and flare ups in their backyards. When there was no water available, they used shovels and bottles of water to extinguish flames. They were hospitalized as a result and have been experiencing pulmonary issues since. Residents said that they choose to remain indoors with the windows closed to avoid dust and toxins from the ash. Many residents were aware of the harmful toxins in the ash but not all of them had access to an air purifier for their home. Some families next door to the burned homes did not have air purifiers so it was a relief to them when we were able to provide one.”

While Lahaina residents work on recovering and rebuilding their lives, Rabbit Air is dedicated to offering continuous support to help families in the community. We hope that our air purifiers can bring some relief, providing better air quality during this challenging time.

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