Fréttir   
15.4.2010

News in English: Health hazards of volcanic ash

Time:  20.00 hrs

There is considerable ash fall resulting from the volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. The ash that is falling is composed of both fine and course particles. The wind direction and other meteorological conditions have an impact on where the ash falls to earth. An examination of the ash particles is in progress but it is known that the ash originated from the volcano and so it can contain the chemical Florine, which is a pollutant and can have harmful short term and long term effects for grazing animals.

Volcanic ash can also effect humans. The most common effects are.

Respiratory effects:

  • Common short-term symptoms include: 
  • Nasal irritation and discharge (runny nose).
  • Throat irritation and sore throat, sometimes accompanied by dry coughing.
  • Breathing becomes uncomfortable.
  • People with pre-existing chest complaints may develop severe bronchitic symptoms which last some days beyond exposure to ash (for example, hacking cough, production of sputum, wheezing, or shortness of breath).
  • Airway irritation for people with asthma or bronchitis; common complaints of people with asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. 

Eye irritation is a common health effect as pieces of grit can cause painful scratches in the front of the eye and conjunctivitis. Contact lens wearers need to be especially ware of this problem.

 Eye symptoms:

  • Common short-term symptoms include: 
  • Eyes feeling as though there are foreign particles in them.
  • Eyes becoming painful, itchy or bloodshot.Sticky discharge or tearing
  • Corneal abrasions or scratches.
  • Acute conjunctivitis or inflammation due to the presence of ash, which leads to redness, burning of the eyes, and photosensitivity.

What to do to protect yourself against volcanic ash, 

  • Use a mask when outside, and it is also recommended to wear protective clothing.
  • If a mask is not available the use a cloth over the mouth and nose to prevent  inhalation of larger particles.
  • Use protective goggles.
  • Children and adult with respiratory problems should remain indoors. 

National Epidemiologist

Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management

 

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