“Water, air, and cleanliness are the chief articles in my pharmacopoeia.” ~Napoleon I
Is Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano causing health issues for our planet and for the people who may be inhaling the enormous ash cloud that has erupted from the volcano? There is debate on this issue.
Volcanic ash is made up of tiny pieces of glassy sand and dust. This is produced when the volcanic eruptions break down solidified rock and lava into the sky. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned people across Europe to stay indoors or use masks when going outdoors. The experts have shared that the people most at risk for health issues are those in Iceland and not much outside the country. The WHO shared that inhaling the particulates from the volcanic eruptions, when they penetrate deeper into the lungs can cause:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
- Respiratory problems caused by fine particles.
- Particularly more serious issues for the respiratory system of those who suffer with asthma or emphysema.
A spokesperson from the University of England stated, “Locally, close to the eruption, it can cause health problems, but I seriously doubt that it will have a significant effect beyond that area [Iceland].”
The United Nations Health Agency reported that the health risks related to the ashes from the volcanic eruption in Iceland could be harmful to humans when inhaled, but that the effects are not yet fully known. They also reported that problems are more severe if ash is in the lower atmosphere in high concentrations; however, as long as the ash remains in the upper atmosphere, there will not likely be an increased risk of health effects.
Contrary to the beliefs of the organizations listed above, The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said that the cloud of ash from Iceland’s recent volcanic eruption is not a significant public health risk. The reason has been said to be that the toxins are too high in the atmosphere to cause problems.
Effects on animals:
Scientists have been warning those in Iceland to keep their animals inside, as the ash may be toxic to livestock health. Some magma contains fluorine aerosols, which can be consumed by animals who feed off the grass that it falls upon. This can put the animals at risk for contracting fluorosis, a fatal bone disease. Fortunately, at this time of the year, most Icelandic livestock are housed indoors and away from the ash; however, this may change when the weather becomes warmer and the animals are moved outdoors.
Based on historical eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, experts say the residents of Iceland need to be sensitive to this issue despite the debate as to whether or not the eruption is dangerous to human and animal health, as the volcano could continue to erupt for months or even years.