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COPD and volcanic ash follow-up…

Posted Apr 16 2010 12:00am

“Past volcanic eruptions have seen dense clouds of fog drift across Europe at low levels and have resulted in many deaths from respiratory problems.”

Volcanic ash is not bloody fog – period. That’s arguably the dumbest thing she could have said – why didn’t they give this item to a science writer, or give Ms. Smith some help, because she’s a bit out of her depth here.

For the record, because it pulls in such a vast volume of air ash can wreck a jet engine in very short order, eroding the compressor blades and fusing into glass in the combustion chamber, blocking it. Fog tends not to do that.

Ash can also damage the lungs of ordinary people; for those of us whose lungs are already trashed, it could prove fatal. On that, the Telegraph is right – people could die.

Of course, that’s a worst-case scenario. Shame they don’t say that.

For now, at least, we’re assured there is no danger, though for the last 36 hours, I’ve been coughing my nuts off. That’s something I don’t normally do these days. Is there a link? I really don’t know.

The British Lung Foundation’s Professor Malcolm Green, says we’re unlikely to come to any harm (personally, I’d prefer rather more certainty), “…but people with respiratory conditions should carry their medication with them as a precaution.” Gee, thanks, I’d never have thought of that. I’ll go further – get some dust masks, this isn’t over yet and we might still get our share of volcanic crap dumped on us (see previous post for mask details).

Far better, as I said previously, to have masks and not need them, than to need them and not have them. It’s not as if they’re expensive, after all.

Pulse (the GPs magazine), is getting a bit sniffy about it about the Telegraph’s item (“no real story here, then”, it says), which is foolish and short-sighted. True, there is no risk at the moment but, right now, nobody knows how this is going to pan out.

It could be over next week, it could go on for years. The last eruption of this volcano (he said, neatly dodging the need to go to Character Map and fetch an umlaut), went on for two years (1821-23, but was a rather more modest affair, though the ash did contain levels of fluoride that proved lethally toxic to livestock in Iceland).

And in the past, of course, volcanic eruptions have been massive enough, and gone on for long enough, to trigger an ice age. And when the Yellowstone caldera blows its top – it’s overdue – the best we can do is put our heads between our legs and kiss our collective asses goodbye – it’ll make a nuclear winter look like a dull afternoon at Blackpool.

As yet, the worst this eruption has done is inconvenience a few holidaymakers. And if you want to see how mind-numbingly ignorant the British public is, at least on the subject of volcanoes and air travel, (not to mention how goddamn selfish), I recommend the comments to this article at the Times. One retard even tried to drag in Gordon Brown. Yes, of course, it’s his fault! FFS!

So far, then, only relatively minor inconvenience (minor compared to the alternative), but it’s not over yet. So it’s probably not a good idea to get complacent about it.

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