Surviving the vog: How to protect yourself from volcanic smog

Protect yourself from the health hazards of volcanic smog with these essential safety tips and precautions
Surviving the vog: How to protect yourself from volcanic smog

When Mount Kanlaon (Negros, Philippines) erupted on June 3, 2024, it sent a massive ash column into the sky, impacting thousands of residents and travelers. With the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warning of ash fall and a strong sulfuric odor, it’s crucial to know how to protect yourself from the hazards of volcanic smog (vog).

What is an active andesitic stratovolcano?
An active andesitic stratovolcano is one that has erupted in the past 10,000 years and exhibits signs of potential future eruptions, such as earthquakes and gas emissions. Andesitic refers to a type of volcanic rock or magma with moderate silica content, making it less fluid than basalt but more fluid than rhyolite. Stratovolcanoes are known for their layered structure of solidified lava flows, volcanic ash and debris, often leading to steep profiles and explosive eruptions.

Here’s a guide to help in one's safety and well-being during such events:

What is volcanic smog?

Volcanic smog, commonly referred to as vog, forms when sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and other volcanic gases interact with oxygen, sunlight, moisture and dust in the atmosphere. This combination creates hazy air pollution that can have severe health impacts, including respiratory distress, eye irritation, sore throat and headaches.

How to protect yourself from vog?

Stay indoors: One of the most effective ways to reduce exposure to vog is to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed to prevent the smog from entering your home.

Avoid strenuous activities: Physical exertion can increase your intake of polluted air, so limit outdoor exercise or strenuous activities.

Wear N95 or KN95 masks: These masks are designed to filter out airborne particles. While they are not perfect for filtering volcanic gases like SO₂, they can help reduce the inhalation of ash and other particulates.

Use face masks properly: Ensure the mask fits properly to create a good seal around your face. Masks that do not fit well, especially those with beards or mustaches, may not provide adequate protection.

Monitor air quality: Stay updated with air quality reports from reliable sources such as Phivolcs. Knowing the current air quality can help you take timely protective measures.

Note weather conditions: Be aware of wind patterns that might bring vog into your area. Understanding the local weather can help predict when you might be affected.

Focus on hydration and medication: Drink plenty of fluids to help alleviate throat and nasal irritation. Keep necessary medications, such as asthma inhalers, readily available.

Seek medical help: If you experience severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, increased coughing or chest tightness, seek immediate medical attention.

Minimize exposure while driving: When driving through areas with heavy vog, keep windows closed and turn off the air conditioning to reduce air infiltration.

Volcanic eruptions are natural events that can drastically affect air quality and health. By taking these protective measures, you can reduce your risk of harm from volcanic smog. Stay informed, prepared and proactive to safeguard yourself and your family during such occurrences.

More information
For more detailed information and updates, visit these resources: - IVHHN on Vog Protection (https://vog.ivhhn.org) - Unilab's Guide on Protecting Yourself from Volcanic Smog (https://www.unilab.com.ph) - Phivolcs Official Website (http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph)
How tall is Mount Kanlaon?
Mount Kanlaon's elevation of 2,465 meters above sea level dwarfs even the tallest man-made structures like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (828 meters), the Shanghai Tower in China (632 meters) and the Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower in Mecca (601 meters), standing nearly three times taller than the Burj Khalifa alone.

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