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Volcanic ash under a microscope shows it’s not ash but broken rocks and glass

  • Volcanic ash is not like any ordinary house dust as it is actually broken volcanic rock and glass
  • Looking under a microscope, volcanic ash looks like broken glass
  • Long exposure to ashfall could lead to serious health issues

With the recent eruption of Taal Volcano, the Department of Health (DOH) has released a warning against the volcanic ash that have blanketed areas as far as Metro Manila.

Image by Daniel Rothaid via Facebook

While ash may look like harmless dust, a look under a microscope showed it is hard, abrasive, jagged and dangerous. According to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), volcanic ash is not just ash but broken volcanic rock which is less than 2mm diameter.

“It is formed during volcanic explosions, from avalanches of hot rock that flow down the side of volcanoes, or from red-hot liquid lava spray,” IVHHN explained.

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of an ash particle showed that it is made of mineral, rocks and glass fragments. It is also hard, corrosive and does not dissolve in water.

These airborne ash blocks out sunlight, reduces visibility and sometimes causes complete darkness during day light. Imagine inhaling fragments of volcanic rocks and glass. Freshly fallen ash particles can have acid coatings which may cause irritation to the lungs and eyes. While uncommon, volcanic ash can also cause skin irritation for some people, especially if the ash is acidic.

Image by Wikimedia Commons

But the most serious concern is the development of respiratory symptoms — since these ash particles are so fine they could easily be breathed deep into the lungs. Long term exposure to these ashes will lead to chest discomfort and increased coughing and irritation. People with asthma or lung problems are the ones who are most at risk.

IVHHN has advised the following precautionary measures during ashfall: Stay indoors, use face mask, reduce ash inside your house, and wear eye protection.

This content was originally published here.

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