CALABARZON RDRRMC warns public against Taal vog hazards

BATANGAS CITY, (PIA) — The Calabarzon Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) has warned the public about the dangers of exposure to volcanic gases as Taal Volcano continues to spew unhealthy amounts of sulfur dioxide.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief, Ma. Antonia Bornas said inhalation of volcanic smog–more commonly known as vog–can cause irritation of the eyes, throat and respiratory tract with severities depending on concentration and duration of exposure.

“This is also dangerous to those with preexisting health conditions such as asthma, heart and lung diseases, as well as the more vulnerable ones like the elderly, pregnant women, and children. We are repeatedly advising the public to limit their exposure to vog by staying indoors and using N95 masks,”

Bornas said during an RDRRMC meeting on October 9 that they have observed for the first time a prolonged high-concentration volcanic degassing in the volcano, similar to what happened at the Miyakejima Island in Japan when Mount Oyama emitted volcanic gases for five years after it erupted in 2000.

“May mga cycle na tumataas [at] bumababa, pero it is generally decreasing. We can expect that this will go on for five (5) years [and] we have been experiencing this for two and a half years.”

When mixed with rainfall, volcanic gas emission also converts into acid rain which can damage crops and corrode metal surfaces such as roofs and vehicles.

On October 8, the Department of Health (DOH) IV-A logged 714 cases of respiratory complaints due to exposure to volcanic gases, including 638 in Batangas, 49 in Cavite, 16 in Laguna, and 11 in Rizal Province who have experienced symptoms such as fever, eye and respiratory irritation, sore throat, breathing difficulties, cough, rashes, and other symptoms.

“We acknowledge that not all the [risk] factors are measurable and that they are supporting evidence. But the diagnoses and actions should not be based solely on instrumental data. We need preemptive and proactive measures. Aside from the scientific measurements, we need to undertake other actions that are proactive.” DOH Region 4A Disaster Risk Reduction Management in Health head, Dr. Voltaire Guadalupe said.

Several local government units in the region suspended face-to-face classes on Monday to lessen the students’ exposure to unhealthy air.

Air quality assessment by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) IV-A shows 0.071 ppm sulfur dioxide concentration in Tagaytay City on October 8.

“This means that the [air quality] was still okay, but we are already alarmed due to the high concentration of sulfur dioxide in the ambient air.” explained EMB Environmental Specialist, Stephanie Rei Batungbakal.

Meanwhile, its Talisay monitoring station reported better air quality, recording normal sulfur dioxide, PM10 and PM2.5 concentration levels on October 7.

In its October 10 advisory, PHIVOLCS said that Taal Volcano remains under Alert Level 1 as upwelling of volcanic fluids is still being observed in the Main Crater Lake. Entry into the Taal Volcano Island Main Crater and Daang Kastila fissures remain prohibited, as well as boating, occupancy, and flying any aircraft close to the volcano (PB/PIA-4A)

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