The La Palma volcano eruption It is leaving a multitude of property damage in its wake. For now thousands of people they have been evacuated from their homes. What’s more, more than one hundred homes they have been affected, some of them literally engulfed by lava. But what about the health of living beings? Damage that can be caused by wash, at a temperature of more than 1,000ºC, or rock fragments that are fired from the volcano are more than clear. However, we must not forget about the toxic gases that have been released into the atmosphere.
In statements to the SER network, the mayor of the town of Step He recently asked his neighbors, already evacuated, to stay under cover, to avoid inhaling the gases. Also the director of the Barcelona Geosciences Group, Joan Martin, recalled in La Vanguardia the dangers posed by these toxic substances.
It is dangerous for people, but also for the surrounding ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial. The danger of all this depends on many factors, some of which have only just begun to be quantified. However, it is clear that, to a greater or lesser extent, pose a risk which should be paid close attention.
Toxic gases after an eruption
After an eruption like that of La Palma volcano multitudes of gases are released into the atmosphere. There are all kinds, from carbon dioxide until hydrogen sulfide, going by hydrogen chloride, carbon sulfide, methane, or hydrogen gas. Some, like carbon dioxide or methane are greenhouse gases, with all that that means for the atmosphere. But, in addition, some toxic gases seriously affect the human and animal health. Especially some, like the sulfur dioxide.
Among the gases released are some of the greenhouse effect
In a 2007 study, it was analyzed how these substances influence both health and the environment and it was concluded that, in reality, this is something that it depends on each volcano. There are especially three parameters that are related to the severity of these emissions. These are the distance to which is the volcano of ecosystems and populated areas, the magma viscosity and the concentration of gases.
In any case, although some are more dangerous than others, in general they all affect the same levels. According to the International Network of Dangers for Volcanic Health (IVHHN for its acronym in English), it is clear that the main symptoms will be at the respiratory level. For example, a study published in 2009 on the influence on the health of Kilauea eruptions points out that these are linked to an increase in symptoms such as cough, phlegm, runny nose, sore and dry throat, sinus congestion, wheezing, and bronchitis. Logically, the effect is more serious in people with diseases such as asthma wave chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But also, for example, in smokers.
Beyond the respiratory effects, from the IVHHN they point out that in the areas near the volcanoes, the cases of cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases and eye pathologies. In addition, the great stress that it supposes can affect the mental health of the neighbors. All this can be minimized by promoting the security measures that are already being used with the La Palma volcano. For example, keeping evacuees in sheltered places and providing psychological help to those who need it. There are measures, but it is important to follow them to be safe.
It also affects the environment
Along with the toxic gases, other substances are released, such as certain organic compounds or heavy metals, such as mercury, gold, and lead.
Highly explosive eruptions are believed to affect precipitation
All of this can have a very negative effect on ecosystems, especially to aquatic ones, if they are released into bodies of water. Therefore, it is important to resort to measures such as the use of polymeric matrices, capable of removing these substances from polluted waters.
Another curious fact that has been studied in other volcanic eruptions has been the decrease in rainfall in some places and the increase in others. This is due to the fact that the sulfides released are transformed in the upper layers of the atmosphere into sulfate particles capable of deflect solar radiation. This supposes a great cooling that has generated phenomena such as the famous year without summer. This name was given to the year 1816, as several volcanic eruptions in previous years, such as that of Mayon of the Philippines in 1814 and that of the Tambora in 1815, they led to a long winter, including the summer months in the northern hemisphere. That gloomy weather inspired Mary Shelley to write her famous Frankenstein. However, it was not a pleasant situation.
Much later, scientists have found that some large volcanic explosions could have also generated a precipitation displacement, causing extremely dry or humid phenomena. This is because as the temperature drops there is less evaporation of water in the atmosphere and therefore less rainfall in the places from which the radiation was diverted.
However, this would only apply to more explosive eruptions of history. So this is possibly not the case with the La Palma volcano.
What do we know about the La Palma volcano?
Since the La Palma volcano eruption took place the priority has been put the neighbors safe. Therefore, it is still too early to have concrete figures on the effects of toxic gases.
Although we already have some. For example, today the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute (INVOLCAN) has announced that the first estimates of the amount of sulfur dioxide released are found between 6,000 and 9,000 tons per day. One more reason not to stop recommending the population to stay away and covered.
The view of La Palma volcano it is fascinating as well as terrifying. However, getting closer to see it better can be reckless for many reasons. Better to settle for photos and videos.