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Sunday 21 September 2014

Ash does not pose health risk, insist experts

Published 16/04/2010 | 05:00

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EXPERTS are monitoring the threat to human health posed by the volcanic ash in Irish air space -- but insisted yesterday there was no significant risk, writes Colin Gleeson.

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) said there was no danger to people on the ground because the plume was "currently at high altitude" and it was not expected to come to ground in Ireland "in the near future".

The ash is from a volcano on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland, which began to erupt just after midnight yesterday.

A HSE spokeswoman said that even if the plume did drop towards the ground, the concentrations of particles at ground level were so small that they were not likely to cause significant effects on health.

"Rainfall over Ireland in the coming days could cause a small amount of the ash to be deposited over the country, but quantities are expected to be too small to pose a health risk to the public," she said.

The HSE, in consultation with government agencies, will continue to monitor the situation closely as it develops, she added.

Meanwhile, Dr Dougal Jerram, of Durham University's Department of Earth Sciences in Britain, said ash could cause "serious health problems" but agreed the high altitude of the plume means humans on the ground would not suffer.

"Volcanic ash is made up of tiny particles that are created when bubbles break due to gasses in a volcanic eruption," he said.

"When the ash is ejected high enough into the atmosphere, it can reach the higher altitude winds and be dispersed around the globe from Iceland to Europe."

Irish Independent

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