Volcanic smog causing bad air quality in the capital area

Volcanic smog in the city.

Volcanic smog in the city. mbl.is/Árni Sæberg

The volcanic eruption at Sundhnúkagígar crater row is now causing considerable pollution in the capital area and in the west of south Iceland.

In an announcement from the Environment Agency of Iceland on Facebook, it says that there is a sulfur-dioxide and sulphate deposition in the form of fine suspended matter.

The highest levels of sulphur dioxide in the capital area have reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic meter and it is expected that this pollution will persist for the whole day, the announcement states.

The vog is clearly visible in the capital region.

The vog is clearly visible in the capital region. mbl.is/Björn Jóhann

It is noted that people who with respiratory illnesses or sensitivity can experience discomfort.

It is desirable to limit the amount of physical activity outdoors and to avoid letting young children sleep outdoors when there is so much pollution.

The city of Reykjavík has issued a notice with recommendations for city-dwellers regarding the eruption and gas pollution that surrounds the capital area. It states, among other things:

“Volcanic smog can cause epilepsy, headache, eye and throat irritation, and flu symptoms. People who are sensitive to the respiratory system and children should avoid outdoor activities for longer periods and limit their physical activity.

Those who are less sensitive can also experience symptoms. It is not recommended to let young children sleep outside in a carriage in these situations.”

Parts of the pollution is not detected in conventional measurements

The city's announcement explains that volcanic fog contains pollution that has, among other things, been able to be converted to sulphate, which is not detected in conventional measurements of sulfur-dioxide.

Higher values in the measurements of fine suspended matter give clues to the presence of this contamination.

People are advised to stay indoors until the air quality …

People are advised to stay indoors until the air quality gets better, especially those with respitory issues. mbl.is/Hákon Pálsson

The level of sulphur dioxide is also higher at the stations in many parts of the capital region.

A volcanic smog, also called vog or a blue mist, is created when sulfur-dioxide, other gases and particles react with oxygen and moisture through the sun.

The blue-grey color of the vog is created when sunlight breaks the particles or sprays of the eruption.

Advice for the situation

General recommendations regarding gas pollution from the Reykjavík City report:

  • Lung and heart patients have their own medicines available.
  • Breathe as much as possible with your nose and avoid physical exertion outdoors in heavy pollution, as it reduces the concentration that can be passed down to the lungs.
  • Staying in-house with closed windows and the air-conditioning switched off provides a significant protection from the pollution.
  • Note that dust masks do not protect against gas pollution.
  • Measures to control sulphur dioxide and other indoor pollution:
  • Close windows and reduce the amount of traffic through the outside doors.
  • Raise the temperature in the house.
  • Open windows and doors to get clean air in as soon as air quality is improved outdoors.




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