It has been eight days since the Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the island of La Palma, began to spit lava. We know that this is normal, since the Canary Islands are a group of volcanic islands; that is to say, they have been created thanks to volcanic eruptions. However, the arrival of the lava to the salt water is very close and that can pose a serious problem of toxic gases and explosions, How is this chemical reaction to be so dangerous?
You have to take the situation into account. To begin with, we know that water vapor will be produced as soon as the lava from the volcano reaches the sea. This is clear from the temperature of the lava, which can be around 900ºC; while the water is now around 23ºC, according to the BBC Jose Mangas, professor of geology at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The problem is that the salty sea water contains compounds that, when evaporated with the lava, can cause explosions and emissions of toxic gases for people nearby.
Toxic gases, the result of the arrival of the lava from the volcano to the water
In fact, the waters surrounding the island contain chlorides, sulfates, carbonates, iodine and fluorine, among other elements and compounds. But these are key, because when the reaction occurs volatilize into toxic gases that can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. But apart from the gases, there is another problem: when the lava from the volcano cools with contact with water at a lower temperature, it solidifies and the pieces can come out upwards. That is to say, they are like small projectiles that are shot out of the water and can cause harm to people who are in the place.
The gases produced in the chemical reaction are toxic and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
At first, there is no need to worry about the inhabitants of the area. And it is that the perimeter on the coast of La Palma has already been marked to prevent people from nearby and may be affected by the arrival of the lava into the water.
We already knew that the gases that volcanoes expel are toxic; so that the same thing happens with the arrival of lava to the salt water is not strange. But anyway, you have to be careful. Hence, the La Palma authorities are taking the necessary precautions to avoid incidents. In short, we will probably also have images of the arrival of the lava to the sea. And we can see, thus, how dangerous these types of chemical reactions that occur in nature can become.