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File image: Port-of-Spain is blanketed by Saharan dust in October 2021.

The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service (TTMS) is advising there is a moderate concentration of Saharan dust present in the atmosphere, and as such, persons who are sensitive to this change in air quality should take necessary precautions.

In fact, the Met Service warns that much of week will see these conditions lingering on, as the dust phenomenon continues to make its presence felt in the region.

However, there may be slight relief with a few brief showers, especially near hilly areas, forecast for today.

At present, the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the Point Lisas area is GOOD at 25, so people can safely enjoy their outdoor activities.

For San Fernando and southern parts of Trinidad, the AQI is MODERATE at 53.  In Tobago, the AQI is MODERATE at 51.

This means respiratory symptoms are possible in unusually sensitive individuals.  In addition, there could be possible aggravation of heart or lung disease with cardiopulmonary disease and older adults.  Unusually sensitive people are advised to consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

AQI update courtesy Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

In the past, the Ministry of Health has advised persons who already have lung conditions, like asthma, to stay indoors, when possible, and have their rescue inhaler with them at all times.  It is advice which such persons should adhere to, this week.

According to the Met Service, increased Sahara Dust events will be combining with less rainfall than usual during the 2022 Dry Season, with the driest period expected to be between February and April.

In its outlook for this year, the Met Service warned that an increase in surface dryness as the season progresses will increase the potential for bush/grass/forest and landfill fires, which can deteriorate the air quality and stress persons with sensitive respiratory conditions.

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About the Air Quality Index (AQI)

The Air Quality Index 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. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects.