Health effects associated with volcanic eruptions in Chile and Argentina

Puyehue Volcano in Chile, which last erupted in June causing the evacuation of 4,000 people, is once again showing signs of activity. Back in June, the National Emergency Office (ONEMI) maintained a Red Alert in communities from Los Lagos and Los Rios Regions. The city of Bariloche, in Argentina, was declared in a state of economic and social disaster as a result of the devastating effects of the volcano. Major roads, as well as crop areas, were covered by thick layer of ashes.

In this situation, the health sector response has been swift. Health facilities assist the population during extended hours and the national authorities have already sent to the area 310,000 masks, eye drops, chlorine tablets and water purification equipment. Health recommendations in these cases are aimed to ensure quality control of air and drinking water, to prevent diseases caused by volcanic ash and to maintain sanitary conditions in shelters and waste disposal, among others.

Most active volcanoes in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean, and millions of people live in villages and towns located nearby. Throughout history, many of these volcanoes have shown great capacity for destruction. In order to avoid loss of lives and damages, PAHO/WHO continues to provide support to countries to prepare contingency plans in the health sector to deal with such emergencies.

Picture: Volcanic ash from Puyehue´s volcano. © Dr. Sergio Mora


Situation Report 1 Volcano Chile/Argentina June 9, 2011


                             Epidemiological surveillance diagram


For more information on volcanic eruptions, see the following PAHO/WHO material (in Spanish):

    Guía de Preparativos de Salud Frente a Erupciones Volcánicas.

    Los volcanes y la protección de la salud.

    Video - Los volcanes y la protección de la salud.

    Aprendiendo a vivir con el volcán, protegemos nuestra salud.

    Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis in the Health Sector during Disasters

    ¿Quién es usted señor volcán? 


Material from other organizations:

   The health hazards of volcanic ash (IVHHN and others)

   Guidelines on preparedness before, during and after an ashfall (IVHHN and others)

   Protocol for analysis of bulk ash samples (IVHHN and Durham University)


Scientific Articles:

   Respiratory health hazards of volcanic ash

   Cristobalite in a rhyolitic lava dome


We also recommend these links:

    International Volcano Health Hazard Network (IVHHN)
    Colombian Institute for Geology and Mines (SERNAGEOMIN)
   Basic recommendations for volcanic eruptions (ONEMI-Chile) - in Spanish