My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How JA$9 Million to NEPA’s Jamaica Air Quality Management Programme is a start towards Air Quality Monitoring

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How JA$9 Million to NEPA’s Jamaica Air Quality Management Programme is a start towards Air Quality Monitoring

 “It is anticipated that the draft policy framework will be approved by Cabinet as a Green Paper and be opened up for public consultations early this financial year”

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz commenting on $9 million being given to JAQMP to boost Air Quality Monitoring

Looks like we might soon be breathing a little least figuratively!!!

Plans are now afoot to boost out ability to monitor Jamaica's Air Quality with $9 million being given to JAQMP ( Jamaica Air Quality Management Programme) as reported in the article “Gov't Earmarks $9m To Strengthen National Air Quality Management Programme”, published Tuesday April 24, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So says minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz during the opening ceremony for a five-day ambient air quality workshop at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston on Monday April 23, 2018. The ambient air quality workshop aims to deliver a training exercise on the basic concepts of environmental epidemiology.

Training is being provided in the use of the AirQ+ tool developed by the World Health Organization to monitor and assess the impact of air pollution on health. As for the new funds, the bulk of it will go towards:

1.      Expand Jamaica's monitoring
2.      Training officers in Air Quality Management
3.      Improving the procedures, protocols and standards for Air Quality management
4.      Publication of a daily Air Quality Index

It’s good to see that some attention is finally being paid to the increasing problem of air pollution in Jamaica, especially after the Riverton Dump Fire that occurred on Sunday, March 16, 2014 as reported in my blog article entitled “How Car Tyres and Plastics from Riverton City dump can make Diesel and Gasoline”.

Since then, there have been small fires occurring at the Dump. But interestingly, another source of air pollution is yet to be addressed; the noxious fumes released by motor vehicles.

A research paper co-authored by Karti Sandilya of Pure Earth, an anti-pollution non-governmental organization, published in the Lancet medical journal, reported that pollution claimed the lives of nine million people in 2015 as noted in the article “Don't wait until air pollution is too big to fix”, published Monday, October 23, 2017, The Jamaica Observer.

This translates to one in every six deaths that year, with the following grisly stats:

1.      92% of the deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries
2.      India and China accounted for more than 50% of those deaths
3.      6.5 million people died in those countries

Already there is evidence of plastic particulates in Bottled Water, making it potentially hazardous to our health as noted in my blog article entitled “University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry discovers microplastic in Bottled Water”.

Air pollution from Buses and motor vehicles is on the rise as well. This has been pointed out by Seventh Day Adventists as noted in my blog article entitled “Adventists want Ban on Vehicle Pollution as Smoking Ban looms on Monday July 15th 2013”. 

So what will this increased funding to the JAQMP change?

JAQMP and Air Quality Monitoring - Mainly Particulates being Monitored

For the most past, $9 million being given to JAQMP is a mere drop in the bucket, as Jamaica's deteriorating Air Quality is a long ignored issue. So it's good to take at look at their overall plans.
Expand Jamaica's monitoring would means expanding monitoring outside of the following areas:

1.      Kingston Metropolitan Area
2.      Montego Bay
3.      May Pen
4.      Spanish Town
5.      Mandeville

It would also means expanding the number of pollutants being monitored to include gaseous substances as currently only particulate matter is monitored along with a few gases, namely:

1.      Total Suspended Particulates (TSP)
2.      PM10 (Particulate Matter)
3.      Lead
4.      Sulphur Dioxide Photochemical Oxidants (ozone)
5.      Carbon Monoxide
6.      Nitrogen Dioxide

Interestingly, there are also plans to develope and conduct elemental speciation, which is the examination of the distribution of defined chemical species of an element in a system.

Element in the Periodic Table can exist in different oxidation states, compounds or Isotopes and each form is regarded as a species. This is similar to the way different forms of the same plant or animals are seen as different from each other.

This affects their level of bioactivity and toxicity and monitoring them is becoming important, being as many of them can persist in the environment for long periods of time. Jamaica has developed ambient air quality standards for criteria air pollutants since 1996 with some 62 Air quality monitoring sites.
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The Air Quality Monitoring Network is not government owned and the Air Quality monitoring is done by a mix of Private and Public Sector Entities as shown below.

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The Methods for sampling and testing were adopted from the list of USEPA and are as follows:

1.      Particulates - Monitors are filter based and concentration determined by gravimetric analysis or beta-attenuation.
2.      Gases - Analyzers determine concentration utilizing either fluorescence, chemiluminescence, ultraviolet photometry methods etc.

Below are shown examples of Air quality monitoring sites that monitor Particulates.
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And these are examples of Air quality monitoring sites that monitor Gases.

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So what is being done about the current levels of particulates in the air?

JAAQS and Jamaicans - Current Legal framework needs more punitive fines

The data obtain from monitoring network is validated and averaged yearly for comparison with the JAAQS (Jamaica Ambient Air Quality Standards). Annual reports on Jamaica’s ambient air quality published on NEPA’s website. Despite this, the current Legal framework excludes mobile sources and minor sources.

Put simply, there are no environmental standards for the regulation of the following:

1.      Motor Vehicle emissions
2.      Water Quality
3.      Licensing of Waste Disposal areas

So says former JET (Jamaica Environmental Trust) president Diana McCaulay in the article “Editors' Forum - JET Fears For Jamaica's Water And Air Quality” published Friday October 6, 2017 by Erica Virtue, The Jamaica Gleaner.

It may even be a case that the Government of Jamaica has been ignoring business and operations that continuously pollute the air simply due to political reasons as suggested in the article “Jamaica Choking - JET Calls For Action On Air Pollution”, published Tuesday February 7, 2017 by Ryon Jones, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Even with the limited data that's available, it's not being broken down in a form that the regular person can understand as pointed out by Diana McCaulay, quote: “Except for particulates, NEPA does not have the equipment to do independent testing for the criteria pollutants (for which there are air quality standards), let alone the 78 priority pollutants (for which there are guideline levels) identified in the air-quality regulations. NEPA does not proactively release information on air quality in a form that is understandable by a layperson so it is not easy for a citizen to find out what he or she is breathing”.

With fewer green spaces, there is a need for more trees and rooftop gardens to be planted in Kingston and elsewhere to help keep the air clean and act as windbreak as noted in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Drought, Trees and Air Quality - Why Jamaican Apartment dwellers are developing Respiratory Ailments”. 

So not only is there a lack of standards and regulation but the public is blissfully unaware what is considered bad air and what they can do about it. Hopefully, this measly sum of JA$9 million may be the start of Jamaica awakening to the slowly rising monster of Air Pollution in Jamaica.

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