The recent eruption of a volcano in Iceland caused a great deal of trouble – but mostly in the form of grounded flights. People were stuck in cities and airports for numerous days. While this inconvenience was on most people’s minds, some people had another issue on their minds. Instead, they were wondering if volcanic ash poses a health risk.
Britain’s Health Protection Agency and the Volcanic Ash Health Risk
The first official statement from Britain’s Health Protection Agency was that the amount of ash that would reach the ground was expected to be low, and that the small amount would not cause any serious harm. Experts usually agree that ash particles usually don’t cause much harm. Note that this does not state that there is no harm at all.
Overall, the amount that falls to the ground determines how harmful the ash may be, but what is in the ash also matters a great deal. All volcanic ash is not the same. Some volcanic ash can contain acid, and this can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and even the lungs.
What You Can Expect Physically from Volcanic Ash
Regardless of what is in the ash, when it comes close enough to the ground, you will most likely experience some physical ailments from it. You may have a sore throat and runny nose. Your eyes may become red, itchy, and irritated. You may experience a dry cough. If the ash contains a great deal of acid, it may irritate your skin.
The health agency states that all of these symptoms and effects are short term. With that said, however, those who already have some ailments may be more negatively impacted by the ash, such as those who have respiratory problems. These include people with asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema.
How to Protect Yourself from Volcanic Ash
The only way to fully protect yourself from the effects of volcanic ash is to remain indoors, in a well sealed building. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible due to the fact that ventilation can actually suck ash into the structure.
Anyone who will be in contact with volcanic ash should wear a moistened cloth over their nose and mouth. Protective eyewear is also recommended to reduce the effects of the ash on the eyes, and you should keep as much of your skin covered with clothing as possible. Wear head covering as well, with the understanding that if the volcanic ash can affect your skin, it can also affect your scalp.