The volcanic ash being spewed by the Puyehue Volcano in Chile has caused safety alerts and affected many flights not only across Latin America but as far as Australia and New Zealand.
June 4, 2011 – The Puyehue Volcano in Chile began erupting and spewing volcanic ash across Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Brazil and other Latin American countries. The initial ash plume reached above 15,000 meters.
June 12, 2011 – The volcanic ash was pushed by winds to the upper atmosphere and covered parts of Tasmania and New Zealand. As a result of the thick clouds, flights were either cancelled or diverted causing disruptions to airline passengers in affected areas. The volcanic ash is so powerful that it can shut down the plane’s engine.
Chile is one of the countries located on the Ring of Fire, an area where most of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Out of the 3000 volcanoes in Chile, experts believed that 80 of those are active.
What are the health hazards of volcanic ash?
- Respiratory System: History revealed that there were hundreds of deaths caused by volcanic ash. It has been a health risk due to its devastating effect on the breathing organ of all living things. Inhaling the volcanic ash may cause problems for those people with asthma and emphysema.
- Eyes: The texture of the ash may cause irritation and even damage to the eyes.
- Skin: The acid in the ash can cause skin irritation and redness.
- Water system: Since volcanic ash is hard and does not dissolve in water, it can cause rivers to overflow. Dams are also threatened by this volcanic material.
How to protect yourself against volcanic ash?
- Use breathing mask or cover your nose and mouth with damp cloth.
- Wear goggles and use eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
- Keep skin covered by wearing long-sleeved clothes and long pants.
- Stay in safe areas.