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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes --
Lingering Health Dangers from
Volcanic Ash
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May 6, 2010
By Rory McClenaghan, Contributing Columnist and Susan
Callahan, Health Editor




The Iceland volcano with the unpronounceable name --
Eyjafjallajökull -- shut down the airspace over all of Europe,
stranding 10 million people in airports and  prompting
comparisons with the disruptions in air travel after 9-11.

But, now two weeks after the exlosions began, new
concerns similar to the post-911 health issues are emerging.
What are the long-term health dangers from breathing the
tiny particles of volcanic ash? Will the Iceland volcano cause
breathing problems for those with asthma?  Will Europe see
an increase in respiratory cancers following the Iceland
volcano?  What can you do to protet yourself against the
long-term health risks from the volcano?


The Iceland volcano showed us one of the most awe-
inspiring and destructive sights our planet has to offer,  
volcano in full effect, exploding plumes of red and white-hot
fire.

No one knows exactly how hot the inside of a volcano is. We
know that the vocano is the last surface expression of the
heat from the internal core of the Earth. According to
geologists from the United States Geological Survey, the
inner core of the Earth is about 13,000 degrees Farhenheit
(7200 to 7500 degrees Celsius). That's hotter than the
surface of the Sun.

We have all seen the spectacular images of burning rock
fired high into the sky, as rivers of molten magma flow down
mountain sides. But even if you are safely away from the
heat and lava, one side effect of an eruption carries a lot
further and can be a danger to your health, volcanic ash.


Here are the most common health problems reported
following a volcanic eruption, based on research studies:



























1.
Throat Irritations, Runny Nose, Itchy Eyes.While down-
playing the health dangers of the ash cloud, the immediate
advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) after the
Icelandic eruptions, was for the citizens of Europe to stay
indoors. Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO's Public Health and
Environment Department said: “If people are outside and
notice irritation in their throat and lungs, a runny nose or
itchy eyes, they should return indoors and limit their outdoor
activities.”



2.
Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema. When a volcano erupts,
it creates a giant ash cloud made up of tiny pieces of ground-
up rock and glassy sand, that rises high into the atmosphere
and can drift hundreds of miles from the original site of the
volcano. The two recent eruptions in Iceland forced the
closure of air space across a large part of Europe. But as
well as travel chaos, the ash can be dangerous to people,
particularly those who already suffer from conditions like
asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. It is still too early to
draw conclusions from Iceland but studies into previous
eruptions have shown this.



3.
Pneumonia. The eruption of Mount Ruapehu in New
Zealand in 2005 showed that the amount of ash need not
even be that great to have health effects. Communities were
dusted with a few millimetres of ash, which according to
Johnson and Becker's Volcanic ash review—Part 1: Impacts
on lifelines services and collection/disposal issues: Auckland
Regional Council Technical Publication, led to an increase in
bronchitis in the local population. However, asthma sufferers
did not seem to be adversely affected. The Mount Pinatubo
eruption in the Philippines in 1991 was also reported to
cause acute respiratory infections, leading to pneumonia,
bronchitis and emphysema, according to the paper Origin of
the Mount Pinatubo climatic eruption cloud: Implications for
volcanic hazards and atmospheric impacts, published in 2002.



4.
Eye Irritations and Skin Irritations. In 1980, Mount St
Helens, in Washington state, erupted with terrible
consequences, killing 57 people. The biggest eruption in the
United States for 65 years, the ash from the volcano also had
more subtle health effects. As RJ Blong reports in Volcanic
hazards: a sourcebook on the effects of eruptions (1984),
“a telephone survey conducted in several ash-affected
communities suggested that 4-8% of the population
experienced eye irritation but that only one in ten of these
sought medical advice”. Minor skin irritations were also
reported after the ash fall.



All of these are simply the direct effects of volcanic ash. You
should not forget the health risks that are indirectly caused
by ash clouds. As ash builds up on roofs, there is a chance
they can collapse; ash reduces visibility on roads and covers
road markings, both of which can lead to accidents; ash can
contaminate local water sources and can even kill grazing
animals who ingest it from the soil.




The advice from the International Volcanic Health Hazard
Network is clear:

Avoid driving after ash fall

Stay indoors, keeping doors and windows shut

Wear dust masks and goggles if you are involved in the
clean-up operation

Stock up on bottled water

Lightly water any ash deposits before you sweep them up,
this makes the harmful particles less likely to become
airborne and therefore be breathed in



You're just getting started. Learn more about the
relationship between your diet and your risk for other
diseases and conditions:
How Much Is Too Much Salt?
/
Sugar-The Disease Connection / Are Diet Sodas Bad for
Your Health? / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics / Ideal
Breakfast for Arthritis /Healing Foods Links /  Foods That
Shrink Your Waist / Foods That Lower Cholesterol/ VLDL-
The Other Cholesterol/ Foods That Reduce Blood Pressure

Index of Articles on
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Snoring Linked to
Stroke

How to Stop Bad Breath

BRAIN HEALTH



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