DUST AND SMOG

DUST AND SMOG: Overlooking a hazy view in Port of Spain from Lady Young Road. The problem is caused by dust and smog.

Citizens will soon be able to access air quality data for Trinidad and Tobago, in real-time, through a mobile app being developed by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

The mobile app is called “Air Quality Index Application” and can be used by anyone, free of charge, after becoming available for download in August.

This was announced by EMA technical officers, Treina Dinoo and Sade Grant, during a July 14 Facebook live broadcast of the first leg of the organisation’s “Knowledge Series 2020”—a three-part series aimed at educating the public on the operations of the EMA.

The EMA generates air quality data via three Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (AAQMS) located in Point Lisas, the Beetham Landfill and Signal Hill in Tobago. During the presentation, the EMA indicated that there were plans to set up two new additional stations in Arima and San Fernando by the end of 2020, which would bring the total number of AAQMS facilities in Trinidad and Tobago to five.

It was also revealed that the possibility of setting up a second station in Tobago is under consideration pending the availability of funding.

Currently, the general public can access air quality data by viewing the Air Quality Index (AQI) which is updated regularly by the EMA and shared via the Air Quality Management Information System (AQMIS) Cloud.

According to the AQMIS website, the AQI is a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become.

Once the “Air Quality Index Application” goes live, AQI updates will also become accessible on the mobile application.

Like the website, the application will allow users to access real time AQI levels at each of the monitoring stations as well as health advisories based on the AQI for that day.

The six pollutants currently monitored by the EMA are Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone, Particulate Matter less than 10 microns and Particulate Matter less than 2.5 microns.

The levels of these pollutants in the atmosphere can impact the AQI and cause vulnerable groups in society such as older adults, children, and people with respiratory ailments and allergies to experience increasingly adverse health effects. It can also cause premature mortality in people with heart or lung disease.

Such effects would have become a concern for many with the arrival of the Saharan dust plume in Trinidad and Tobago from across the Atlantic Ocean. In addressing these concerns it was revealed that the EMA recorded the highest ever concentration of particulate matter for Tobago on June 21, the day after the dust plume first landed.

The 81 participants at the first leg of the EMA series were given an overview of the Air Quality Index, and the extent to which air pollutants are measured locally.

The second leg of the EMA’s Knowledge Series 2020 took place on July 28 on the topic “Understanding the EMA’s role in Noise Pollution Management”.

— Cari-Bois is an environmental news network. www.caribois.org

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