April 17, 2010

Ash May Contaminate Iceland’s Livestock and Drinking Water

Volcanic ash  fall could contaminate Iceland's drinking water in certain areas due to the ongoing Eyjafjallajokull eruption. Health officials also warned that the biggest health risk would be to livestock.

"It is important to prevent the ash from reaching water supplies, both for public and animal health reasons and for safe milk production," Halldor Runolfsson of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority told AFP.

Most of Iceland's water supply comes from underground sources, which should protect the largest part of the supply, said Runolfsson's colleague Guthjon Gunnarsson. Still, the agency was evaluating the water quality as a precaution.

"Here in Iceland the (drinking) water is mostly groundwater so it is rather difficult for ash to heavily pollute it," he said.

The blast, however, covered large areas with a thin layer of volcanic ash and poses a greater risk to Livestock because the ash contains high levels of fluoride, said Runolfsson.

Runolfsson urged that farmers should keep their animals indoors as the intake of fluoride is known to cause bone and teeth problems, especially in growing animals. "The ash can also ... cause problems in (animal's) respiratory and digestive systems," he added.

Fluoride concentration near the volcano was between 23 and 35 milligrams per kilogram of ash.

The volcano began erupting at1:00 am (GMT) Wednesday and has since continuously spewed out a 3.7 mile plume of ash into the sky, sending a giant ash cloud toward Europe, prompting the continent's biggest shutdown of air travel since World War II.


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Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority