By Culturekiosque Staff
GENEVA, 17 APRIL 2010 The ash cloud from the eruption of
Eyjafjallajökull, the glacier volcano (1666m high) in
southern Iceland contains fine particles, similar to those emitted
from other sources of particulate matter (PM); but as long as ash remains
in the upper atmosphere, there will not likely be an increased risk of
health effects, according to the World Health Organization
"Particulate matter is identified according to its diameter. The small
particulates less than 10 microns in size are more dangerous because they
can penetrate deeper into the lungs," says Dr Maria Neira, Director of
Public Health and Environment Department at WHO.
NASA Satellite Images of the Eyjafjallajökull
Photo courtesy of NASA
Analysis of the ash is ongoing and so far it is estimated about 25% of
the particles are less than 10 microns in size.
The wind direction and other meteorological conditions have an impact
on where the ash falls to earth.
People with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, emphysema or
bronchitis may be more susceptible to irritation if ash is in the lower
atmosphere in high concentrations.
The eruption plume from up close
courtesy of Stromboli online: Volcanic and glacial landforms of
"Since the ash concentration may vary from country to country depending
on the wind and air temperatures, our advice is to listen to local public
health officials for the best guidance for individual situations," says
Neira. "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."
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 aware of this problem.
In case of increased air pollution from the volcanic eruption, normal
precautions are advised, i.e. avoidance of strenuous exercise by people
with asthma and respiratory symptoms in days with high air pollution.
Health and civil
emergency authorities recommend the use of 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.
Photo courtesy of
In addition to health concerns, and as of today, the Icelandic volcano
that has kept much of Europe land-bound continues to produce new
mini-eruptions that raise concerns about longer-term damage to world air
travel and trade.
External Links of Interest
& A on the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull
subglacial volcanic eruption aerial photos
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC)
hazards of volcanic ash and what you can do to protect yourself
against volcanic ash.
French-language Islande 2010
The Volcanism Blog:
BOOK TIP: chosen
by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque
Björk (Icons of Pop Music)
By Nicola Dibben
Paperback: 224 pages
Indiana University Press (April 2009)
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