The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is sharing tips with persons sensitive to air pollutants, as the country is in the midst of a period for Saharan dust intrusion.
The Saharan air layer is an annual phenomenon that mainly impacts Jamaica between the periods June to August and December to March, reducing visibility and exacerbating respiratory challenges.
“The first thing that you want to do is to wear your face mask and definitely heed all advisories that you receive from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Meteorological Service,” Acting Manager of the Air Quality Management Branch at NEPA, Shannen Suckra, told JIS News.
Ms. Suckra said that the same care must be taken when handling face masks as with COVID-19, as the Saharan air layer contains not just dust but viruses and bacteria as well.
Children, the elderly, persons with respiratory illnesses, allergies and cardiopulmonary diseases and those who have been affected by COVID-19 are classified as the ‘sensitive group’ and are more susceptible to changes in air quality.
“You have to reduce or limit your outdoor exposure as best as possible, but you want to make sure that you do so, especially for children and the elderly. You also want to limit, for example, wearing dark clothes. So, it’s best to wear light clothing. Cotton, for instance, is a good material that you want to wear, because if you have to do outdoor activities, at least you can keep cooler,” Ms. Suckra suggested.
“Another important tip is that you must keep hydrated. Try your best to keep the air inside your homes and your offices clean. While doing so, it’s important to be drinking. If you’re not hydrated, then with this hot, dry layer passing over, it is quite easy for you to experience dizziness and some other symptoms. You also want to observe children, the elderly and asthmatic for any breathing difficulties. One of the most important things is to refrain from any open burning activities, because when we do get the Saharan dust intrusion, any kind of fire will just exacerbate the whole situation,” she added.
It is also recommended to exercise caution while driving, particularly if the intrusion level is high.
The Air Quality Management Branch monitors and assesses the impact of air pollution and the potential for public health impacts. Data gathered from local monitors inform air quality releases from NEPA.