New Study Shows Air Quality Standards for Communities Near Mining/Quarrying Operations are Inadequate


I have been focusing quite a bit on the bauxite mining industry in recent posts, and will continue to do so. Now here is a release from the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) on a study undertaken in three communities (the first of its kind) in collaboration with the University of Technology (UTech). One question I have is (one of many): How come the Jamaican standard for particulate matter is three times the WHO standard? Air quality standards are clearly inadequate. Can they be revisited?  Look up the links below to read the study and view related videos. Let’s continue to keep our eyes on this issue in 2016.

Communities affected by bauxite mining have been complaining over the conditions they endure for many years. This is a 2011 photograph of residents of Stepney, St. Ann, protesting damage to their farmlands and health conditions. (Photo: Alesia Edwards/Jamaica Observer)
Communities affected by bauxite mining have been complaining over the conditions they endure for many years – decades, in fact. This is a 2011 photograph of residents of Stepney, St. Ann, protesting damage to their farmlands and harm inflicted on their health. (Photo: Alesia Edwards/Jamaica Observer)

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) commissioned a health survey of three Jamaican communities exposed to mining and quarrying as part of its “Strengthening the Capacity of Jamaican Communities to protect their Environmental Rights” project, funded by the Inter-American Foundation. The survey was the first of its kind in Jamaica and was led by Dr. Homero Silva, Professor of Public Health, Environment and Climate Change at the University of Technology (UTech) and carried out between September and November 2015. The communities studied were Hayes and New Town in Clarendon and Ten Milles, Bull Bay in St. Thomas. Two communities not exposed to mining or quarrying were also studied – Lionel Town in Clarendon and Albion in St. Thomas. Thirteen health conditions of respondents and family members were assessed, including underlying conditions such as obesity and hypertension. Respondents were also asked to rate environmental conditions in their communities.

The study found that with the exception of hives or rashes, mining and quarrying operations are having adverse impacts of varying degree on community health. Examples: residents living in proximity to mining or quarrying are almost six times more likely to suffer from asthma than residents in non-exposed communities. The asthma risk was higher in Bull Bay than Hayes or New Town – a resident of Ten Miles, Bull Bay is eleven times more likely to have asthma than a resident of a non-exposed community.

The most severe impact the survey recorded was for allergic conjunctivitis – mining/quarrying communities are twelve times more likely to experience this complaint. The lowest impact was for headache – mining/quarrying communities are only slightly more likely to experience headaches. Respondents also reported increased irritability, anxiety, depression, insecurity and anger towards the polluter in mining/quarrying communities. Just over 56% of the exposed communities rated their air quality as unacceptable, compared to 7% in the non-exposed study areas.

The Jamalco plant in Clarendon.
The Jamalco plant in Clarendon.

The health survey also reviewed the air quality monitoring reports for JAMALCO in Clarendon and the Carib Cement Halberstadt Quarry in St. Thomas. Air quality in both areas nearly always met the Jamaican standards for PM10 (respirable particulate matter). A comparison was then done with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The Jamaican standard for PM10 is three times higher than the WHO Guidelines and Jamaica does not have a PM2.5 (very fine particulate matter) standard.“JET has received complaints over many years from communities suffering from mining and quarrying,” said JET CEO, Diana McCaulay. “The response of the regulatory authorities has always been that operators are in compliance with local air quality laws. This ground breaking health survey reveals the plain truth – that local air quality standards are insufficient to protect public health.”

JET calls on the Environment Minister and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to urgently adopt a PM2.5 standard and update the Ambient Air Quality Standards, not only for PM10 and PM2.5, but for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). “Jamaica has signed several international conventions and treaties to protect human health, environment and child development,” said lead researcher, Dr. Silva. “None of those commitments was being met in the exposed communities studied.”

The study has been circulated to all relevant ministries and agencies is available at: http://www.jamentrust.org/images/stories/pdf_files/al_publications/Health_Survey_Analysis_Mining_Communities_IAF_Project_Dec_21_2015.pdf

Two films on this project are also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdtK0KbqIRc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4hKFGHwfMg

For more information, contact: Diana McCaulay (469-1315); Dr. Homero Silva (804-4073) 

In 2012, Bull Bay All-Age School’s Acting Principal Palmeta Fuller said staff and students suffer from various bronchial conditions triggered by dust from the nearby quarry. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
In 2012, Bull Bay All-Age School’s Acting Principal Palmeta Fuller said staff and students suffer from various bronchial conditions triggered by dust from the nearby quarry. Has anything changed? (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

 


3 thoughts on “New Study Shows Air Quality Standards for Communities Near Mining/Quarrying Operations are Inadequate

    1. Yes, as I suggested – these issues have been ongoing for many years! There has been very little resolution to the problem. However, I was not aware that our national standards are, in fact, falling “below standard”!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, if the national standards are themselves inadequate, then even if they are strictly adhered to, people’s health would continue to be at risk! Need for change, as JET urges!

        Like

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