The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), through its Air Quality Index (AQI), is forecasting moderate air quality throughout the weekend.
The country has been affected by a Saharan dust plume since June 22, which has led to reduced visibility due to the concentration of dust particles suspended in the air.
It has also caused concern for persons with respiratory conditions. The current dust plume is dissipating, but another is expected during the course of the coming week.
“The current conditions are showing ‘moderate’ (yellow), which is the second level on the scale. The first level is green, which means the conditions are good,” said Manager of NEPA’s Air Quality Management Branch, Fayona Lewis.
She said the description that is associated with the moderate category is that the air quality is acceptable; however, there may be risks for some persons, particularly those who are unusually sensitive.
The AQI is a tool used internationally to communicate current air-quality conditions and forecasts to the public. The index runs from 0 to 500 with increments of 50. For each increment, there is an associated colour code and a description of the air quality, which corresponds with a range of particulate concentration in the air. The higher up the scale, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concerns.
Ms. Lewis told JIS News that Jamaica’s AQI, implemented in April of this year, was developed in collaboration with the air-quality technology company, IQAir.
“We used this company because they were able to connect us to satellites because the data that is presented in the AQI is by satellite. This particular company had the infrastructure already and they were able to add Jamaica to their satellite systems, so it was easier to get the data quickly,” she noted.
“We also have a ground network of monitors here that run continuously. We do combine both the satellite data as well as the data on the ground to make our decisions,” she added.
Ms. Lewis explained that both are used for accurate air-quality readings, as the satellite gives data for large areas such as Kingston or Montego Bay but the local monitors supply data from smaller areas, like Half-Way Tree or downtown Kingston.
She said that Jamaica’s AQI is available to the public and should be frequently checked by anyone needing to know the quality of the air.
“The index can be accessed at www.iqair.com. Once you get to that site you will type in your location or the location for which you need the air quality, and the description of the air quality there will come up. Also, on that page it will give you a forecast for days going forward. There is also an app that you can access from your phone from the same website,” Ms. Lewis said.
The app is available for download from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.