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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.

“High levels of Saharan dust have a greater effect on persons who already have lung conditions, like asthma. These persons should stay indoors, when possible, and have their rescue inhaler with them at all times,” a release from the Ministry of Health has advised.

At present, the Air Quality Index (AQI) for San Fernando and southern parts of Trinidad is MODERATE at 88; for Point Lisas, it is MODERATE at 56; and for Port of Spain, it is MODERATE at 53. 

AQI update courtesy Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

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.

For people in Tobago, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is reported to be GOOD at 4, so people can safely enjoy their outdoor activities.

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 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.