By Jane Kingsu Cheng and Jessica Pag-iwayan
Taal Volcano has been spewing volcanic ash, reaching as far as Clark in Pampanga. Photos circulating reveal locals in Batangas evacuating what seems to have turned into a desert in just a matter of hours.
The province is now under a state of calamity. Health professionals are warning everyone about the health threats caused by the volcanic eruption as strong winds carry harmful particles such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide to other parts of Central Luzon.
According to the International Volcanic Hazard Network (IVHHN), volcanic ash carries with it a variety of health hazards, ranging from nasal irritation and discharge (runny nose), painful, itchy eyes, skin irritation, and even throat irritation to lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and heart problems.
WHAT TO DO
Kids are most vulnerable. “Children face the same hazards from the suspension of ash as other age groups, but their exposure may be increased because they are physically smaller and are less likely to adopt reasonable, prudent, preventive measures to avoid unnecessary exposure to ash,” IVHHN says. Here is a checklist of what to do and what you should have.
It has been circulating that N95 masks are the best in filtering out airborne particles. If you can’t have these masks, the Philippine Red Cross suggests putting on a surgical mask and two pieces of tissue paper or wet wipes. The additional layers help keep dust particles away. It is also advised that children wear masks designed specifically for their age group. Here are some available options.
The best bets are those with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that can trap ash, dust, and other fine particles. Volcanic ash is known to have less than one micrometer in diameter, so look for air purifiers that can trap these small particles. Try UV Care air purifiers that offer six and eight stages of filteration.
The Parenting Emporium suggests using diffusers to clear air pathways, neutralize odor, and have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Essential oils that you can use are lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, and grapefruit. A few drops of these oils from Human Nature mixed with water in diffusers from Botanicals in Bloom will do the trick.
Protect your eyes with proper eyewear such clear glasses and goggles used for swimming. You can also opt for industrialgraded goggles. Under no circumstances should you wear contact lenses as the ash might cause abrasions to your eyes.
Remind household help not to use brooms when cleaning the house. It is best to use damped cloth to wipe dirt away and powerful vacuum cleaners to get rid of dirt, dust, and bacteria. Dyson vacuum cleaners are can be transformed to handheld ones for cleaning hard-to-reach corners.
The general preventive tip is to keep children indoors as much as possible. This also means that we should keep all windows and doors closed to prevent volcanic compounds and particles from entering the house.
Children (and adults) are also advised to avoid strenuous play or running during ashfall. “Exertion leads to heavier breathing, drawing small particles more deeply into the lungs,” IVHNN says. If it is unavoidable to go outdoors, children should wear masks to prevent them from breathing air that is contaminated with volcanic ash.