Volcanic ash contains potentially toxic elements which could affect human health. There is a paucity of research focusing on the impact of airborne volcanic emissions on the health of children, and on their exposure reduction. Children's carers (parents/guardians) are critical to their protection, so documenting their perceptions of the health risk and their knowledge of how to reduce their children's exposure is an important first step to increase our understanding of how risks are acted upon. This article reports the findings of a survey of 411 residents with caring responsibilities for children aged 12 and under in communities near the active volcanoes of Sakurajima in Japan, Merapi in Indonesia, and Popocatépetl in Mexico. Informed by the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) and Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), we investigated their perceptions of the health effects and harmful consequences of the ash on their children, how important they thought it was to protect them, and the protective actions taken. The Indonesian carers were the most concerned and motivated to protect their children, although, in all three countries, the large majority of carers had adopted protective measures that they perceived to be most effective, such as keeping windows and doors closed. Path analysis illustrated how the connection between perceptions of harm/worry and importance of protection could partially account for higher motivation levels to protect children, in the Indonesian carers. We discuss the key messages conveyed through the findings that are of relevance for policy, practice and training in all three countries.
- Children's health
- Protection motivation theory
- Protective action decision model
- Protective measures
- Volcanic ash