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Centre for Biosecurity Studies

I Can't Breathe: Caribbean Air Pollution Initiative

Given the impact climate change has had and continues to have on the Caribbean with the severe weather systems and hurricanes, the signing of the Paris agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020 by Caribbean countries, the region’s dependency on fossil fuels and clean energy deficits an air pollution research initiative was explored in this area. The Barbados National Energy Policy (BNEP) 2019-2030 is designed to achieve a 100% renewable energy and carbon neutral island-state by 2030.  Air pollution is estimated by the WHO to be responsible for 7 million deaths per year globally (4.2 million deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution) with increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures. Air pollution is also linked closely to climate and the ecosystem health. In the Caribbean harmonized air quality standards are needed to help guide legislative reform and effective enforcement. 
Air pollution is linked closely to climate, human and the ecosystem health and has been a threat to lives and livelihoods in the Caribbean for many years. From sugarcane and grass fires during the dry season, vehicular exhaust, open air burning of garbage/refuse, agriculture (herbicide/pesticide use), livestock farming, volcanic activity/eruptions, rotting Sargassum seaweed to African Sahara dust  they all provide, harmful aerial assaults. What constraints exist with current Caribbean environmental legislation to reduce these exposures generated by human activity? What level of air pollution monitoring exists around the Caribbean? What more needs to be done? 
Two major research questions will be posed ideally: 
  1. What are the current levels of air pollutants at various sites across Caribbean?  
  2. How do these air pollutant levels correlate with non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) heart attacks, strokes, hypertension and cancers?

The Official Launch of the I Can't Breathe: Caribbean Air Pollution Initiative can be viewed below: