Poison: Our Air Quality May be TOXIC

Submitted by Agyeman Kofi
Motor vehicle emissions not good!

Motor vehicle emissions

Barbados is more than an economy is always a profound cliché emanating from the flattering lips of our leaders. Our ratio of action to pretty pronouncements would be weighted in the favour of action if they only believed what they read from their well written speeches. Barbados has 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) of public paved roads. In 2010, an assessment released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the United Kingdom, ranked Barbados 6th in the world, and the top spot in the Western Hemisphere for road network density. We have heard estimates of up to 140,000 registered vehicles on the roads in Barbados.  No mischief is intended but could there be any environmental links which have cursed Barbados with rankings of #3 in Prostate Cancer, #13 in Breast Cancer, #13 Colon Rectum Cancer and #9 as it relates to Lymphomas.

Let me share an excerpt from a BBC report dated June 12,201, “Exhaust fumes from diesel engines do cause cancer, a panel of experts working for the World Health Organization says. It concluded that the exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumours in the bladder. It based the findings on research in high-risk workers such as miners, railway workers and truck drivers. However, the panel said everyone should try to reduce their exposure to diesel exhaust fumes.” (Source,The International Agency for Research)

The gas portion of diesel exhaust is mostly carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur oxides, and hydrocarbons, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The soot (particulate) portion of diesel exhaust is made up of particles such as carbon, organic materials (including PAHs), and traces of metallic compounds. Both the gases and the soot of diesel exhaust contain PAHs. These types of changes are usually needed for cancer to develop, although not all substances that cause DNA changes also cause cancer.  The fumes from diesel engines exhaust is believed to play a role in other health problems, such as eye irritation, headache, asthma and other lung diseases, heart disease, and possibly immune system problems. Perhaps the reason why so many of my Ghanaian have discoloured eyes.

Even Obama has weighed in on the dangers of vehicle emissions in a recent speech on April 2, 2012, “Car manufacturers will be required to meet more stringent exhaust tailpipe standards for emission levels, while gasoline refiners will be expected to enforce at 60% reduction in the amount of sulphur in their fuel. The move is expected to require a degree of investment from manufacturers and refiners to meet their new production requirements, and has been resisted by those representing industry groups.”

We may need to take a leaf out Bermuda’s one-vehicle-per-family policy as  well as encourage the use of bicycles and motorcycles. It makes no sense building more roads to accommodate an unsustainable vehicle population and then complain about increased respiratory ailments.

We must stop living greedily and selfishly and remember tomorrow belongs to future generations entrusted to us by our fore parents. The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Transport & Works need to look at logical and sustainable solutions to control the spiralling increases in cars on our roads and the contingent health fall out.

Some will raise their hands in the air and think there goes an alarmist, but the question begs why doesn’t the government agency publish a Daily Air  Quality Index, thus in its labsence it would be informative for the Chief Medical Officer to share the levels of the below mentioned substances.

Sulphur oxide (SOx) is emitted from motor vehicles burning fuel containing sulphur. Reducing the level of fuel sulphur reduces the level of Sulphur oxide emitted  from the tailpipe. Refineries generally fight requirements to do this because of the increased costs to them, ignoring the increased costs to society as a whole.  Another culprit found in vehicle emissions is carbon monoxide which  reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen; overexposure (carbon monoxide poisoning) may be fatal. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a major killer.

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odorless and tasteless, but highly toxic. In the U.S. 60% of carbon monoxide is caused by on road vehicles and I would say without any empirical evidence, given our size and vehicle density it may not be any different.

Why don’t portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) exist in Barbados? These are essentially lightweight ‘laboratories that are used to test and assess mobile sources of emissions. To say that cost is a prohibitive factor would be an insult to logical thinking persons as a country’s health is its true wealth.

Let’s not take the people’s health for granted as an ounce of prevention is better than a  pound of cure. The Future Centre Trust will be steadfast in its clarion call for things environmental and sustainable development.

34 thoughts on “Poison: Our Air Quality May be TOXIC

  1. This is very serious information that should be taken seriously. I have been doing volunteering for going on 13 years with prostate cancer, colon cancer, testicular cancer and some breast cancer.
    In fact I am a prostate cancer survivor for 11 years now.
    The information that’s given is true and important to everyone in Barbados. Not only the fuel, but also the brake pads that are made from asbestos. The bust gets into the air and when you breath it you can also get cancer. To be quite honest with you, I don’t see why Barbados allows these many cars to any household since this will cause more problems over all? I am sure that many will say it’s their money to buy whatever they want. That’s all good and well in Barbados was a bigger island. Health issues in Barbados has grow over the years. I have a friend in Barbados who is taking 3 different medications for the same problem. But when I went online and look into the side effects from the medication. The side effect were greater than the problem. Plus one of the medications wasn’t suppose to be taken while taking one of the medications that the doctor gave her.
    When medication is being given to people in Barbados, does they receive any literature on the effects of the medications that are being given to them? Folks should be educated to what they are putting in their systems. This should be something enforced by the government that folks in Barbados show not only be told by the doctors, but also have something in writing that they can look back at when taking medications.
    Sad to say, more than often the side effects out weighs the problem as much as 8 to 1.

  2. Thanks so very much for being so kind and remembering me.
    Been doing a few things. Have been submitting articles to Barbados Today. But it’s always a PLEASURE reading your post. I hope that you and the family are all doing Wonderful in all areas,or at least most?
    May you be Forever Blessed and Highly Favored.

  3. The air in Barbados is highly polluted. I just returned from 5 weeks stay and had to take medication for headaches every morning. I never, never, have headaches. It was dry, nothing was flowering and yet my sinuses were constantly infected. The worse was breathing the heavy air and rather than being energized, feeling tired, and exhausted. When I returned, I gulped the Canadian fresh air like a panting dog. I did not realize the difference until I felt a rush of energy at 12:30 am after 8 hours flying.

    In Ontario we have to have our cars emissions tested every two years. If the car does not pass the emissions controls, the license sticker is not renewed until it does. My car is 13 years old and passed on the first test. One just has to change the oil and filter every 3 months or 5,000 kilos, whichever comes first.

  4. Pat wrote “When I returned, I gulped the Canadian fresh air like a panting dog.”

    Canada is a big country. You certainly didn’t land in Toronto.

    When you are in Barbados you should spend more time on the south and East coasts where the air is clean and there is very little pollution from vehicles.

  5. Respect is earned, Hants. Many of the island’s teachers have no respect for the Minister, hence the scant respect that they paid to the directive!

  6. Before we all wet our knickers.Why not get the air tested .
    The East Coast is wonderful.
    Permanent sea breeze.Lived over there for over 35 years and still go to bed windows wide open,and relish the air.
    Bridgetown holds the air because of higher building and not so much breeze,so yes there is a fuel stink.
    There maybe a lot wrong with BIM ,I dont think bad air is one of them.

  7. @CHARLES S. CADOGAN SR “To be quite honest with you, I don’t see why Barbados allows these many cars to any household”

    So Charles have you given up your car yet?

    And if not why should I give up mine?

    If you can’t walk the walk , in this case literally, they you have to stop the talk.

  8. @Pat “The air in Barbados is highly polluted. I just returned from 5 weeks stay and had to take medication for headaches every morning. I never, never, have headaches. It was dry, nothing was flowering and yet my sinuses were constantly infected. The worse was breathing the heavy air”

    I doubt very much that Barbados’s “polluted” air was responsible for your headaches or infected sinuses. Barbados’ air is of course very heavy, because we sit in the middle of the second biggest body of water on the planet. A little something called the Atlantic, and most of Barbados is a ground level so yes the air is very heavy, very damp, but not polluted.

    Your body has become used to the dry Canadian air and it would take more that 5 weeks to acclimatize to the Barbados air.

    When I have to breathe the dry Canadian air I invariably get nose bleeds, but I don’t blame “polluted” Canadian air for my nose bleeds.

    One must give one’s body time to adjust to different kinds of air.

  9. And actually it is “spring time” in Barbados right now. Just before the rainy season starts the bouganvilliea, frangipani, mango, golden apple, avocado, ackee etc. start to flower.

    For the past 2 months and up to the present all fruit trees are in flower, and many decorative plants are in flower too.

    So if pollen bothers you then you may have some difficulty.

    But where in the world world we be if we didn’t have fruit trees, and their pollen?

  10. also Mr.cadagon the transporation system is inadequate and to improve or update would cost billion of dollars in better roads to areas now inaccesible not to mention the the additional cost of buses, sorry but the horse bolted out the barn years ago because of lack of good leadership. now the responsibilty is up to the people to provide and maintain their wayof travel while leaving a trail of deadly poision in the atmosphere for years to come. Welcome to the 21st century.

  11. @Dr. Love

    During/after the metal dump fire a couple weeks ago the air quality, we were told, was tested but for what? We were told there was no local capability to test for multiple elements.

    We make so light of these matters.

  12. Over a decade ago I told some people in Bim that diesel emissions in the city was too condensed and could lead to cancers, naturally i was laughed at because that could not happen in Barbados, I think for the size of the island the cancer rates are very high, one decade later.

  13. @ Simple Simon:
    I don’t live in Barbados, but I was born in Barbados, and have been coming back to Barbados on the regular. In response to your question. I have **ONE** car in my household,. I have had it for the last 20 years, and it has passed all the test that’s done to obtain a sticker to keep it on the road.
    If I have offended you, then I apologies.

  14. @David:
    For your information and the information of the BU family. We do have the capability and the expertise as well as the equipment to do monitoring of air particulate matter. There is a senior Technologist at the Ministry of Health, Mr. Edmund Blades who is an expert on such testing and who monitors such things as air quality. As a matter of fact some years ago he used to conduct daily testing on the air quality and used to publish the findings on a daily basis in the newspapers. Mr. Blades has also been conducting research on the Sahara Dust and its contents, as part of a research project in association with Professor Prospero of the University of Miami, investigating the correlation of Sahara dust, and antigens contained in it, with upper respiratory tract ailments and Asthma in Barbados. If you go to the area of the Lighthouse at Eastbourne in St. Philip you will see the tower from which the samples of Sahara dust are collected. The University of Miam maintains this research station there and use it to monitor particulate matter int he atmosphere East of Barbados. Mr. Blades has published some of his findings in Scientific Journals, has received training with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric association in the United States. He is an expert on Antigens and Molds in the air. We are very quick to assume that because we do not hear of some things that they do not exist in Barbados, and criticize in a manner that gives the impression that Barbados is so backward, rather than investigate and discover the truth. But then, it seems that people do not read and digest what they see in the newspapers. Around the time of the fire I distinctly remember reading the information on it published by the Ministry of Health; in the Advocate, and saw a picture of Mr. Blades, with the Senior Medical Officer of Health ; Dr. Joy St. John, and Mr. Blades had an environmental monitor in his hand, and commented on his findings.
    I hope this information is helpful..

    • @Alvin

      You are excused because you have admitted that you are out of country at the moment. Have a read of the following:

      “We’ve tried to do some preliminary testing in terms of air quality at this site and near this site. What we’ve done is look at the carbon monoxide levels and they are within normal health limits. We’ve tested three sites west of the fire, about one kilometre away and the carbon monoxide levels are within normal [range]. They’re about 1.5 parts per million and the normal [reading] is 900 parts per million so they’re well below that limit.


      Have a note of what was tested. Bear in mind this was a metal dump which possibly pushed out multiple dioxins in the 2-3 days. Now tell us if it was enough to test for carbon monoxide and soot particles.

  15. @Charles Cadogan:Every prescription that is given out by a pharmacist will have an enclosure printed by the maker of the medication in which the contents of the medication, it’s uses and the side effects fre spelled out clearly. Unfortunately many people do not read these instructions carefully, not do they ask questions, or take the medication according to instructions. As a consequence they often suffer needlessly.

  16. another point that is well worth mentioning is along with industrialization comes pollution. China is a great example . The quality of air is so poor that over a million people die yearly. Another price which society pays in order to have a growing and booming economy. the same was true for america until the environmental laws were passed which served as a barrier to contain the level of abuse heaped on the environment by greedy capitalist .

  17. @David,
    Being out of the country does not mean I don’t keep up with what’s going on. Dioxins are usually found in meat products, milk etc. It is not found in any great amounts in the air, even when toxic material is burnt. As a matter of fact incineration is the usual method for disposal of dioxin contaminated material. Testing for dioxin is extremely expensive, and requires sophisticated testing in highly specialized laboratories. The principle danger from Dioxins is if it is spilled on the ground or if workers handle it without proper safety clothing. For example, It is used in some large industrial electrical transformers as a coolant. If workers dismantle transformers etc. then they should be protected from spillage etc, and ground contaminated with the material could present a danger if animals ingest contaminated material. Any Dioxins in material burnt in the fire would have been destroyed by the incineration. In the circumstances, in my opinion, the tests carrried out in the preliminary stages would have been adequate.

  18. We no longer have that many sugar factories,or even that many weeks of sugar production which was that once was a source of polllution. Apart from the many unserviceable motor vehicles, we have a processing plant in Lowlands Christ Church , just off the ABC Highway which very frequently blankets the densely populated communities of Newton,Lodge Road, Kingsland, Gall Hill , Silver Hill and the environs,with a sickly smell, from the burning of some very obnoxious stuff, which is reminiscent of of tear gas, producing similar symptoms of burning eyes,head ache and nausea.
    Many a complaint has been made to the MOH , but the operators only control /limit their operation for a short while and then its back to business as usual.
    I’ve heard one of the bosses of another, at times,annoying plant nearby, bragging that he is able to control the operation of his plant at nights, by computer, from his home miles away. It figures.

  19. dont worry Simpson already got he money.feel he care bout you?
    he off in his private jet breathing pure oxygen and live by the crane where the air comes off the ocean.fool the lot of you.
    i write about all these things that wunna now thinking about .long ago.
    sad you all so slow to catch.
    but wait do what bajans do best talk about it but do nothing.
    keep up the good work/
    you might want to look at overpopulation very soon also as there will be no jobs for the new born.your black government doing a hell of a job since 1066 nuh.

    • @ mrcorrecto.
      Well brother you said a mouth full, and I do agree with you 110%. The plan is to worry about the horse after he gets out of the barn. But never how to keep him in the barn. This has been the way for many years for as long as I can remember. Plus it’s always who can gain from what they do. It seem that the people comes last. But nothing is going to change, since nothing is ever done by the people to show dissatisfaction for the quality of life. I think the government has better plans for fetes than they does for the welfare of the people. Giving you a few things every now and then isn’t going to cut it. Keep destroying the land by building malls and houses, hotels and anything else they can think of. It gives you a few jobs for a couple of months, then you are out of work again. And the land that you once had to produce what you needed is gone.
      Over populated is going to be the next big problem in Barbados for sure. This is so sad to see how people feel as long as they have the party they like in power all is well, and will wage war if you say anything about what they might not be doing right. The situation is like divide and concur. Same old same old BS over and over again, only a different day with the BS the same old way.
      Ask the elected officials to take a pay cut to help ease the pressure off the tax payers, like President Obama just done. Every little helps.

  20. 1966 i mean.independence from England .wow what a improvement., what forward innovative infrastructure in barbados a dust bowl .wait i forget the government dont give two funks bout wunna nider dem just out to fill dem pockets and dash off.i think one of you lazy asses should start a serious movement. but ho drink some rum and banks first .ooooooooooookkkkkkk

  21. Charles……….we have been hinting for months for these selfish, self-serving politicians in Bim to offer to take a 5% or 10% pay to help the economy……………they are just too selfish and greedy.

  22. Well Well | April 6, 2013 at 12:18 PM |
    Charles……….we have been hinting for months for these selfish, self-serving politicians in Bim to offer to take a 5% or 10% pay to help the economy……………they are just too selfish and greedy.
    Bajan politicians take a pay cut? When hell freezes over. Remember back in the early 80’s when a recession then was just as devastating, and Parliamentarians were given a modest pay increase, and one of them remarked, that he was not a maid .

  23. David do you honestly believe that our politicians are primarily in this business for the love of their fellow man?
    On average they qualify for a handsome pension, after working some 520 days ,(52 days per year for 10 year) We have people out there who have worked their asses off for this country,until well past 70 years of age , and are now struggling to survive on a pension less than what it takes to maintain a prisoner or a police german shepherd.

  24. think about it ” polution genocide ” carried out on the people of china seems like nobody cares! whynot? cheap products to the west and big bank accounts for greedy corpoartions, Barbados could be next.

  25. Well then, I am in Barbados now and have been having allergy problems since I arrived. I do not think it is due to pollution as I am fortunate to be staying on the beautiful East coast. We drove through
    Bridgetown to the West coast and the traffic was terrible and the air
    quality if poor. I am however attributing my allergies to pollen, grasses
    trees etc. When I left the Northeast in the US it was 10 degrees below
    zero wind chill and I think my body is reacting to the temperature change also.

    I have a couple of thoughts: coconut water is very big right now in the
    US. A carton or small can is about $5.00 BDS. The coconuts come
    from Trinidad and also Thailand. How about a coconut water plant?

  26. Also, another huge thing in the US is solar lights. People use them in their gardens, to line the driveway or front walk and also there are solar
    Christmas lights which people put on the outside of their houses for the
    holidays. If there is sun during the day, they will light up at night. With so much sun Barbados could be the solar country of the world. This would help people with their electric bills but then of course the utility companies are not happy. It would take equity and .. investment to build a plant but I think it might work. Solar lights are also useful in preventing crime at not much cost.

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