By KIM REYES-PALANCA
Since Sunday, Jan. 12, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has issued warnings and a high level alert (Alert Level 4: Hazardous Eruption within days) for Taal Volcano’s unrest and escalating activities. As Taal continues to spew ash, volcanic plumes, and smoke, the public has simultaneously been forewarned against the dangers of being exposed to ashfall.
Ashfall isn’t merely dust. Volcanic ash is composed of microscopic particles made from rocks, minerals, and glass particles formed from magma. The “dust,” which may have powdery and sandy qualities, can easily enter the body. It is hazardous to health.
The Department of Health (DOH) reminded the public to be cautious, with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III warning against the adverse health effects of volcanic ash.
DOH says exposure to volcanic ash leads to these conditions, among others: nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation, and minor skin problems.
If you experience these or any similar symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. It is imperative that you minimize exposure simply by staying indoors.
For added protection, here are important steps and guidelines.
“Ashfall is not simple dust or dirt. It is composed of rock and glass fragments that, when it gets inside your eye, may cause corneal abrasions, infection, or damage,” says Dr. Francis Guerrero, Shinagawa medical director. “Proper eye care precautions should be followed.”
Dr. Guerrero mentions the following as precautionary measures: wear goggles or protective glasses when outdoors, use artificial tears or eye lubricants if eyes get red or irritated, wash eyes under running water, and avoid scratching or rubbing eyes to prevent infections or corneal abrasions. Also, wearing of contact lenses should also be avoided. Use eyeglasses in the meantime.
Contact with volcanic ash can immediately cause itching or irritation. Although it’s hard to resist the urge to scratch, stop yourself at once. Volcanic ash is abrasive, and rubbing or scratching will only aggravate the situation.
Rinse the affected area with cold water and mild soap. Apply moisturizer or, even better, a topical calming and healing cream for skin. Note: the lotion has to be free from any exfoliant ingredients that can further damage skin.
If skin gets irritated, wash off with water and mild soap. “Treat as necessary if there are wounds,” says dermatologist Dr. Lyn Guiyab of the Aivee Clinic. “Use anti-inflammatory wound care and topical creams. Moisturize and wear protective clothing. Take oral anti-allergy if the rash persists.”
When cleaning (cars, plants, animals, or home), use protective gloves so skin doesn’t get direct contact with hazardous particles. Wear protective clothing when necessary too.
Ashfall isn’t merely dust. Volcanic ash is composed of microscopic particles made from rocks, minerals, and glass particles formed from magma. The ‘dust,’ which may have powdery and sandy qualities, can easily enter the body. It is hazardous to health.
Lung or respiratory diseases like asthma, silicosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are just some of the harmful effects resulting to ash exposure.
Wear a mask to protect yourself from dust. The most recommended for use are N95 masks, as well as P3 masks used by construction workers. These filter at least 95 percent of dust in the air. When unavailable, you can also use a surgical mask padded with damp cloth or tissue to increase protection. Masks with disposable filters are also available.
Children who may have trouble breathing under these masks can use kid-friendly masks that fit them appropriately. Some also have replaceable filters.
At home, you can protect yourself further by using dampened cloths and curtains to filter out ashfall. It is also advisable not to use fans or air-conditioning whenever possible.