The subject matter of this bog is normally to deal with matters of transgender politics and the core deceit at the heart of the Conservative Party and the dangers of Tory governments. However today I am going to break with tradition because of the serious situation which has arisen from the volcano in Iceland which has produced a cloud of volcanic dust now hanging over northern Europe. Apologies to my usual readers, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Warnings of the dangers of the volcanic dust cloud have so far been limited, at least in the case of the media, to the flying ban and the obvious dangers of engine damage, which has been documented by the RAF in particular. However, what goes up must come down and as the particles descend to ground level little consideration seems to be given to the actual health risks, other than some vague warning from the medical profession about people with respiratory problems.
However, communicating with a relative in Japan who grew up in an area prone to regular volcanic eruptions suggests that health problems are not going to be limited to asthmatics and the like and will affect us all. Indeed this is something which we all need to be aware of, particularly children.
The danger is to our eyes.
Microscopic particles of volcanic dust in the atmosphere after a volcanic eruption are usually very hard pieces of volcanic rock with hard edges and sharp sides. These get into our eyes throughout the day. In areas such as Kagoshima on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu where volcanoes are common, the locals know of the dangers...
When you get these microscopic particles in your eyes through the course of the day, the natural reaction is to rub your eyes, to relieve the feeling of hard dryness. This is however the worst possible thing you can do. This will result in the surface of your eyes becoming scratched, and the under-surface of your eyelids also. This obviously represents the potential to seriously damage your sight.
The solution? Simple; rinse your eyes out gently with water, but do not rub. It is also advisable to wear sunglasses as much as possible while outside, the big women's-style sunglasses are best, ones which provide real protection for your whole eye. Men's sunglasses are better than nothing but rather pathetic in comparison with women's ones.
However the people most at risk are once again, children. They generally do not wear sunglasses and it is very difficult to stop them from rubbing their eyes. Parents need to protect them with sunglasses which properly cover their eyes and teachers need to be aware of this and stop kids from subbing their eyes. Schools should ideally organise mass eyewashing sessions at the end of any period when children are outside, especially after lunch or games/PE sessions when children are likely to have been outside for an hour or so.
There are other things which the inhabitants of areas such as Kagoshima take care over, which people need to be advised about, but are not so important, like taking great care when cleaning specs/sunglasses and to rinse your car thoroughly with water before trying to clean it. but these all pale into insignificance when compared with protecting our children's eyes.
I am giving this post a Creative Commons (cc) licence which means that it may be reproduced without ammendment and with attribution (ie let them know who originally wrote it) as often as anyone likes as long as it is not for commercial, profit-making purposes. as soon as that happens normal rules of copyright apply.
Natacha Kennedy 20 April 2010