Airborne ash can be caused by a number of events and it can happen just about anywhere. Volcanoes, fires or even building demolitions can create ash clouds, and inhaling the ash is extremely harmful to humans.
Not Like Normal Ashes
Volcanic ashes contain harmful aerosols and poisonous gases, while other types of ash can contain any number of elements that can be detrimental to your health. Inhalation can cause serious health effects including respiratory problems, eye issues and skin irritation.
Volcanic ash containing silica can cause a type of lung fibrosis called silicosis, which is a very serious disease. It can result in lifelong effects on your health.
Whether you’re traveling abroad and have encountered an erupting volcano or you’re passing by a controlled building demolition that has kicked up a significant amount of dust into the air, the following tips can help to keep you safe and healthy:
- Stay indoors, or get indoors as soon as possible. The best defense against low air quality outdoors is to stay where the air quality will be much better.
- Block door jams with moist cloths. This will prevent polluted air from entering your shelter and will preserve the good air quality of the place you are staying.
- Cover your eyes, nose, and mouth. The easiest way to harm your body in a low air quality situation is to inhale ash or dust or to get it in your eyes. Safety glasses, like those worn in labs, work best to protect your eyes, but in the absence of these regular sunglasses will work. Use a scarf, towel, or spare article of clothing to cover your nose and mouth if you do not have some kind of medical or filtered mask available.
Follow these safety procedures until you are either able to clear the affected area by a significant distance or until emergency services declare that the area is safe. Even if the area appears safe to the untrained eye, there could still be harmful airborne pollutants that could cause long-term damage to your body if you find yourself exposed to them.