Have you woken up to a cloudy sky this morning? You may think that the thick blanket of smoke is a fog caused by the chilly weather of -ber months, but this haze is actually volcanic smog or vog most likely coming from Taal Volcano in Batangas.
Taal Volcano have shown signs of being active once again. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) have reported high amounts of sulfur dioxide gas being emitted from its crater; reaching up to a daily total of 4,569 tons. This elevated amount of SO2 is what causes vog to persist in our skies. Aside from the gray cloud of smoke enveloping Batangas and other nearby provinces and cities like Metro Manila, the agency have also recorded five volcanic tremors in the past 24 hours.
The increased activity within Taal has stirred a major concern for the locals living near the volcano. Looking back in 2020, Taal Volcano also spewed ashes and displayed lava fountains reaching as high as 1,000 meters. Concerned citizens fled to social media to document and share their accounts of the haze reaching their respective areas.
PHILVOLCS have issued a Volcanic Smog Alert and advises locals, especially those who are suffering from asthma, lung failures, and other respiratory ailments, to limit their outdoor activities and exposure.
Why is volcanic smog dangerous?
Volcanic smog is primarily caused by the release volcanic gases and ash into the atmosphere through volcanic eruption. Volcanic gases are usually a combination of sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and carbon monoxide. On the other hand, ash is a mixture of tiny particles of rocks and glass.
Vog exposure is detrimental to your health as it can it can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can also worsen asthma and other respiratory tract conditions. In high concentrations, volcanic smog can cause serious health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Aside from that, gas emissions such as sulfur dioxide can react with moisture in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid. This can result in acid rain, which can harm aquatic ecosystems, damage vegetation, and erode buildings and infrastructure.
How to protect yourself from volcanic smog
This is the best way to avoid exposure to the ash and gases in volcanic smog. If you do not have any urgent reasons to go outside, stay in the safety of your home. If you must go outside, wear a mask to filter out the pollutants. PHIVOLCS advises the public to use N95 masks when going outside. Don’t forget to throughly wash your hands and face after going outside to remove any clinging dirt or ash.
Close your windows
Remember to keep your windows and doors closed all the time to prevent harmful gases from entering the confines of your home. Turning on your air conditioner or dehumidifier can also hep in removing sulfur compounds from your indoor atmosphere.
Drink plenty of liquids
Vog exposure also causes throat irritation or constrictions. Drink plenty of liquids such as warm water or tea to relieve any symptoms.
Seek help from your doctor immediately
If you are experiencing adverse effects of volcanic smog, seek help from a healthcare professional immediately. Pregnant women, children, people with health conditions, and the elderlies should also be monitored closely.
Protecting oneself from volcanic smog, or vog, is of paramount importance due to the significant health hazards it poses. Vog contains a complex mixture of gases, particulate matter, and aerosols released during volcanic eruptions, and exposure to these pollutants can lead to a range of respiratory and health problems
By taking proactive steps to protect oneself from vog and supporting community efforts to mitigate its effects, individuals can play a critical role in ensuring the safety and resilience of volcanic regions prone to such atmospheric and health hazard.