Batangas folk fear health risks from Taal vog
The provincial government of Batangas has expressed alarm over the presence of volcanic smog or vog from the continued sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission from Taal Volcano, which has already caused schools in some areas in the province to shift to distance learning to protect their students’ health.
On Wednesday, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) called for an emergency meeting with representatives of municipal disaster response units to address the situation that threatens the health and safety of residents around the lake.
Jocelyn Tangpuz, Balete disaster management officer, reported in the meeting held in Batangas City that at least six senior high school students in the town had experienced skin irritation, difficulty in breathing and asthma attacks due to air pollution caused by Taal’s emission.
“Some schools in the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, as well as the city of Tanauan, affected by the smog, temporarily switched to modular distance learning or an alternative delivery mode,” the Batangas public information office said in a report.
Among the Batangas localities surrounding Taal Volcano are the towns of Balete, Laurel, Agoncillo, Mataas na Kahoy, Talisay, Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Alitagtag and Cuenca and the cities of Tanauan and Lipa.
Vog consists of fine droplets containing volcanic gas such as SO2 which is acidic and can cause irritation of the eyes, throat and respiratory tract with severities depending on the gas concentrations and durations of exposure.
Authorities warned that people who may be particularly sensitive to vog are those with health conditions such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease, the elderly, pregnant women and children.
The PDRRMO encouraged residents around Taal Lake to refrain from unnecessary outdoor activities to minimize exposure to vog.
Dr. Amor Calayan, PDRRMO chief, reminded residents to use only standard N95 face masks to ensure protection against smog and its potential effects.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has observed continued and increased degassing activity from Taal Volcano, which remains under alert level 1 (low level of volcanic unrest).
A total of 4,322 metric tons per day of SO2 emissions from Taal’s main crater were measured on Thursday, the agency said in an advisory.
Steam plumes rose 2,400 meters before drifting in the south-southwest, north-northeast and southwest directions.
On Sept. 15, Phivolcs issued a public advisory on the condition of Taal Volcano.
“Vog has been affecting the Taal region since the first week of September 2023 as degassing activity from Taal Volcano continues to date,” it said.
—DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.