Taal Volcano made a phreatic eruption (a kind of steam-driven volcanic eruption that happens when “water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits”) yesterday, Jan 12. Volcanic ash, which is made up of volcanic glass, rock, minerals, and silica, started spewing from the volcano, with ashfall reaching as far away as Quezon City.
Volcanic ash is more hazardous than the kind of ash you’d get from burning wood. National Geographic’s encyclopedic entry reads, “volcanic ash can be dangerous. Its particles are very hard and usually have jagged edges. As a result, it can cause eye, nose, and lung irritation as well as breathing problems.” So we’ve laid out a few tips for dealing with this type of ash:
1. Use an N95 mask, not a surgical mask, to protect yourself from breathing in the ash particles. The latter is what people normally call a face mask and is widely available; however, its fabric is too thin to protect yourself from ash. The former, meanwhile, is a respirator, which means it’s designed exactly to keep out airborne contaminants. If you want to know more about the difference, here’s a quick video the US Department of Labor made in 2009 that lists it out:
When wearing a mask, make sure that you’re not leaving out any gaps. If you don’t wear it properly, ash particles can still seep in. If you don’t have access to a respirator, then you can get a wet piece of cloth or wet wipes and cover your nose and mouth with it, and then put on a face mask. The wet cloth will protect you from inhaling the ash, while the face mask will secure it in place.
2. Wear goggles or thick sunglasses. You need to put on protective eyewear to ensure that the ash particles won’t get in your eye. In the same way that the ash’s jagged edges could cause irritation in your lungs if you inhale it, the ash’s edges could scratch the surface of your eye, causing irritation.
3. Wear clothes that can protect your skin from being covered. Ashfall is really sticky and can cause rashes, which means you need to ensure that if you go outside, you’ve covered up as much as you can.
4. Similarly, take a shower when you get home. You don’t want the ash to continue to cling on to your body.
5. If you’re at home, cover the gaps in your windows and doors with a wet cloth. This will keep the ash from going inside.
6. As much as possible, do not drive outside. But if you absolutely must, be very, very careful. For one thing, if the ash is still falling, it would cover your windshield, affecting road visibility. The ash could also end up getting inside your engine and clogging it. Even when the ashfall ends, though, driving can still be hazardous. Ash makes roads slippery, and with projected rainfall in areas around and near Metro Manila, slippery roads are a guarantee.
Header and featured photos courtesy of Ana B. Ibarra for California Healthline
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Writer: ZOFIYA ACOSTA