By PAOLA NAVARETTE

Evacuations are ongoing in three towns in Batangas following the raising of alert status of Taal Volcano to Alert Level 4 after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recorded increased volcanic activity.

Alert Level 4 means hazardous eruption is possible within days. Ashfall from the volcano has also reached several parts of Metro Manila.

As in other extreme natural events, volcanic eruptions pose major health threats to individuals. Among the hazards associated with eruptions are lava flows, gas emissions, pyroclastic explosions, and hot ash releases.

The Department of Health (DOH) has warned that exposure to falling ash may cause a number of health problems such as nose and throat irritation, minor skin problems, and discomfort while breathing, among others. 

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“Volcanic ash consists of powder-size to sand-size particles that have been blown into the air by an erupting volcano. Anyone who already suffers from health problems such as bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma should avoid exposure to volcanic ash,” it said in an advisory. 

Large ashfalls may also have an indirect effect on health, the DOH said. Reduced road visibility or slippery roads could cause vehicular accidents. Some roads may also be rendered impassable, thus isolating communities that may be in need of help.

It also recommended that people should stay indoors as much as possible, keep windows and doors closed, and use dust masks and goggles for protection when going outside. 

Philippine Emergency Alerts Operation Center, meanwhile, advised to not run air-conditioning or clothes dryers, keep pets indoors, and check if livestock have enough food and water.

There are several ways to protect one’s self and family during volcanic eruptions. It is also important to follow the directions of local authorities and to stay updated with life-saving information they provide.

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