More than an inconvenience, a nuisance, ashfall, which currently plagues Calabarzon and Metro Manila, poses potential health risks.
The Department of Health on Sunday told the public to be vigilant about the conditions that may arise after the exposure to volcanic ash, after the Taal Volcano in Batangas spewed an ash column which prompted the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology to raise its status to Alert Level 4 (“hazardous eruption” may occur within hours to days).
Volcanic ash consists of very fine particles of rock. According to the US National Weather Service, it is abrasive and corrosive thus can irritate eyes and lungs, cause minor to major damage to vehicles and buildings, contaminate water supplies, disrupt sewage and electrical systems, and damage or kill vegetation.
“Ash is different from ordinary house dust. Its sharp, crystalline structure causes it to scratch and abrade surfaces when it is removed by wiping or brushing,” said the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network.
The DOH said exposure to ashfall may result in throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation, and minor skin problems.
The World Health Organization in the Philippines seconded, adding trauma and injuries, skin burns and irritation, and gastrointestinal problems to the adverse effects of volcanic eruptions.
PHIVOLCS, WHO, and DOH share the following reminders on what to do during and after ashfall:
• Stay calm and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.
• Wear masks that block small particles of ash—ideally N95 mask or damp cloth.
• Wear protective eye gear, especially when going outside.
• Close doors and windows of house and car.
• Place damp towels or cloth on door opening and other open areas to avoid infiltration.
• Keep pets in closed shelter
• Avoid low-lying areas and those downwind from the volcano.
• Observe traffic notifications and road safety measure.
• Listen to news for updates.
• Ensure food and water to be consumed are safe. Cover water containers to avoid contamination.
• Wear effective dust mask or wet cloth and goggles before undertaking clean-up operations.
• Take caution when walking outside as volcanic ash can be slippery.
• Carefully scrape the ash from the roof of house or car to prevent damage.
• Moisten the ash with sprinkler, use shovels to remove thick deposits or stiff brooms for lesser amounts.
• Keep collected ash in heavy-duty plastic bags or containers, don’t dump in gardens or roadside.
• When cleaning inside, open all doors and windows to promote ventilation.
• Use soaked cloth or sponge for glass, porcelain, and acrylic surfaces. Those covered with fabrics must be rinsed under running water.
• Have the car and air conditioner professionally cleaned.
• Ensure water is clean before drinking.
Photos By Nico Candelario
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