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Timely reminder of actions to minimise impact of ash fall

MEDIA RELEASE from GNS Science and the University of Canterbury
7 AUGUST 2012

Timely reminder of actions to minimise impact of ash fall, scientists say

Today’s eruption at Mount Tongariro is a good reminder of how damaging and disruptive ash fall can be, scientists say.

Fortunately ash fall from Tongariro was relatively light and mostly confined to the Tongariro National Park and Desert Road area.

There is the potential for more eruptions generating ash from Tongariro, and this is a good opportunity to prepare if more
widespread ash fall occurs.

Volcanic ash can have impacts to a range of people, activities, and agriculture. It is made of fine particles of volcanic rock
(less than 2mm in diameter) and is very different to ash from a fire. Volcanic ash is usually not very toxic, but can be very disruptive. People
can take a range of actions to minimise the effects of volcanic ash fall.

Although usually non-toxic to people, volcanic ash can be irritating - mostly to the eyes and lungs. It can exacerbate existing respiratory
conditions, but generally does not produce long-term health effects.

Scientists from Massey and Canterbury universities and GNS Science are in the area of the eruption today collecting ash samples for analysis.

What to do if ash is falling
If outside, seek shelter (eg. in a car or building).

If exposed to ash use a mask, handkerchief or cloth over your nose and mouth; wear eye protection. Do not wear contact
lenses if possible as these can become irritated.

Close doors and windows. Stay indoors. Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources; tape draughty windows
– these really help keep fine ash out.

Protect sensitive electronics and do not uncover until the environment is totally ash-free.

Disconnect drainpipes/downspouts from gutters to stop drains clogging, but allowing ash and water to empty from gutters onto the ground.

If you use a rainwater collection system for your water supply, disconnect the tank prior to ash falling.

If you have chronic bronchitis, emphysema or asthma, stay inside and avoid unnecessary exposure to the ash.

Listen to your local radio for information on the eruption and clean-up plans.
If there is ash in your water, let it settle and then use the clear water. If there is a lot of ash in the water supply, do not use your dishwasher or washing machine.

Ash contamination of water supplies will usually make the water unpalatable (with a metallic taste) before it presents any health risk.

Detailed advice on ash impacts and preparedness can be found at the following websites, which are collaborative resources with our New Zealand ash impacts research team:


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