Catastrophic-safe: Chinstraps surprise the world with an added benefit

A group of children, wearing their chinstraps, play in front of the eruption of the volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma (REUTERS / Nacho Doce)

Even with the Delta variant of coronavirus circulating in more than 180 countries around the world, countries are progressively abandoning the mandatory use of chinstraps outdoors, including Argentina. However, the protection that the mask involves for the respiratory tract enables other types of uses and in Spain they found an additional benefit, before the irruption of a surprising natural catastrophe from which the Argentine territory is not exempt.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano of La Palma, located on the island of La Palma de Canarias, has been erupting for more than five days in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. The wake of destruction devastated nearly 400 buildings and forced the evacuation of about 6,000 people. This Friday the phenomenon entered a new phase, with greater expulsion of pyroclastic material and an intense ash emission. Smoke and particles, by degrading air quality, have a significant impact on the well-being and health of the population.

“The volcano emits two types of pollutants. On one side are toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. But they are also dangerous ashes, especially those of microscopic size, which are composed of soot and different types of magma minerals and can enter the airways“, He told the newspaper The world the pulmonologist Cristina Martínez, pulmonologist and coordinator of the environmental area of ​​the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (Separ).

Lava and smoke in the eruption of the volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park, on the Canary Island (REUTERS / Marco Trujillo)
Lava and smoke in the eruption of the volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park, on the Canary Island (REUTERS / Marco Trujillo)

According to this specialist, exposure to these substances can trigger coughing, tearing, itching, throat irritation and even respiratory distress such as bronchospasm, especially in people with asthma or with previous breathing problems.

Faced with this type of situation, the chinstrap reappears as a useful object to protect itself from the harmful effects of volcanic emanations. “The larger the filter on these masks, the better“Said the Spanish pulmonologist. Yesterday the arrival of ashes to other islands in the region was confirmed, so the scientific committee recommended the use of masks.

With the expulsion of volcanic gases, the Canarian authorities closely monitor the emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and ash from the volcano. According to Martínez, exposure to these contaminants should not cause a chronic problem, although its damage capacity can be added to previous exposures to other toxins.

“This situation should make us see that air pollution is a major health problem,” said the expert.

Volcanoes in Argentina

The seismic activity is known in the regions located on the margins of the Andes. As in other latitudes, volcanic gases erupt as an inevitable phenomenon and have the ability to reach populations that are up to thousands of kilometers beyond the focus, depending on the wind and the evolution of the eruption. The volcanoes located in Chile, such as the Puyehue, are illustrative of how these shock waves, when triggered, can affect the Argentine inhabitants.

In the national territory, Two of the active volcanoes that are permanently monitored are Lanín and Copahue, located in the province of Neuquén, on the border with Chile. Copahue remained on green alert at this time, with regular records. On August 9, the monitoring cameras installed in the vicinity of Copahue detected an increase in surface activity. As a result of these modifications, the local Civil Defense authorities brought reassurance to the population, after clarifying that it was a regular report.

The city of Villa la Angostura covered in ash, in one of the eruptive phenomena of recent years (Matias Arbotto)
The city of Villa la Angostura covered in ash, in one of the eruptive phenomena of recent years (Matias Arbotto)

In recent years, there have been several volcanic explosions that covered Patagonia in ash and smoke. One of the most remembered was the one that was triggered on June 4, 2011, in the Cordón Caulle volcanic complex next to the Puyehue volcano located in Chile. The eruption of the massif expelled from its entrails millions of cubic meters of material that the winds deposited, for the most part, on Argentine territory.

The explosion covered the town of Villa La Angostura, which was 39 kilometers away. The truth is that of the at least 38 active volcanoes in Argentina (those that had at least one eruption in the last 10,000 years), the Copahue, shared between the province of Neuquén and the Chilean region of Biobío, It is the most “hectic” of the present time in the country.

In 2015, many of the Andean cities of Río Negro and Neuquén returned to dawn covered with a layer of volcanic ash, leaving a trail of total darkness. This time it was for him Calbuco volcano, which erupted twice in the last 24 hours and could repeat the episode shortly.

Of the at least 38 active volcanoes in Argentina (those that had at least one eruption in the last 10,000 years), the Copahue, shared between the province of Neuquén and the Chilean region of Biobío, It is the most “hectic” of the present time in the country. Faced with an ever-latent seismic activity, the experience of the pandemic will leave the mask as a resource at the disposal of the Patagonians.

(Matias Arbotto)
(Matias Arbotto)

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