As of January 15, 2020, Taal Volcano is still on Alert Level 4, which means it is possible for a hazardous eruption to occur within the next couple of hours or days. Although the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has reported that the volcano’s activity can be characterized as “continuous but generally weaker,” the volcano is still showing signs of high-risk activities.
Taal’s phreatic eruption has caused nearby areas, such as Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Metro Manila, to experience ashfall over the past few days. With this, PHIVOLCS has reiterated that exposure to ashfall may cause "irritation and breathing problems, especially among the elderly and children."
Since ashfall poses a number of dangerous health risks, people are advised to stay indoors. But if you must go outside, the use of N95 mask is highly recommended—especially if you’re really close to the affected areas.
Due to high demand, N95 masks are currently limited or out of stock in most drugstores. As of now, the Department of Health (DOH) has advised residents from Metro Manila that they it is now safe to use masks made out of thinner materials since the area is no longer affected by Taal’s ashfall.
Here are some alternatives you can try if you don’t have access to N95 masks:
Honestly, this is probably one of the most effective alternatives if you don’t have an N95 mask on hand. Why? Your bra can completely cover your nose and mouth; the straps are adjustable so your make-shift mask can fit comfortably; and the material (aka the foam pad) is thick enough to block out any unwanted particles.
DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Francia Laxamana said during a joint press briefing on January 12, 2020 that diapers can also be used to help block out the ashfall. “I think diapers can be used… just put some moisture to avoid suffocation,” she stated, “What is important is you can protect the [ears], nose, mouth and put the side with Velcro (tape) on the back of your head.”
If you were able to carry out some of your grade school sewing skills into adulthood, then you’re in luck. Sewing your own protective cloth mask isn’t *that* complicated. You may find the sewing pattern and the steps here:
Surgical masks with tissue
Since N95 masks filter 95 percent of airborne particles, they are recommended during ashfall. However, if all you have on hand are surgical masks (aka the blue and white masks that we usually see), you can simply place two layers in between your face and the mask to improve its ability to filter any tiny dust particles that you might inhale during ashfall.
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