Local October 6, 2021 | 1:32 pm

Does the sulfur dioxide carried by the dust of the Sahara represent a danger?

Santo Domingo, DR

The concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2) due to the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, Spain, which brings the dust coming from the Sahara Desert to the Caribbean, is not severe. However, it represents certain risks for those with respiratory, eye, or skin allergies.

Geologist Osiris de Leon explained that since Sunday afternoon, there has been a cloud of fine dust coming from the Sahara Desert with SD2 particles, covering the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico; on Monday, it began to cover the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and part of Cuba.

“Some people reported eye irritation, itchy skin, respiratory difficulty, especially people with rhinitis, pneumonia, or covid. Any respiratory problem is aggravated during these days as a result of this particular situation,” explained the expert.

He recommended that those facing any clinical respiratory condition should reduce their outdoor activities until the cloud passes and use masks if they have to go out.

“The N95 mask is capable of filtering the finest fraction of PM2.5, which is the macro particle of 2.5 nitrons and the most feared because it is the finest, capable of entering through the respiratory tract, lodging in the alveoli and causing some respiratory difficulty for anyone who has a respiratory health problem.

Sulfur Dioxide makes the rain more acidic.
The geologist explains that this cloud of dust from the Sahara is combined with some ash from the Cumbre Vieja volcano and also sulfur dioxide and is dragged to the Caribbean region because the winds blow from East-Southeast. Any volcano that erupts in the Atlantic region has the particularity that increases the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, then makes the rain more acidic than usual.

“Normally rainwater is acidic because it has a pH close to 5.5, the result of the fact that in the middle and high levels of the troposphere there is a high concentration of carbon dioxide and when it combines with water it forms carbonic acid molecules and that is why rainwater is normally a little more acidic and people who suffer from gastritis and drink rainwater feel a little burning. When there are concentrations of sulfur dioxide, the pH is lower and it can become irritating to bare skin and those with visual sensitivity,” he says.

He assured that the basic factors in this situation are nothing serious but tend to accentuate the allergies to those who have this type of problem.

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