Ambient Air Quality

Let’s find out what is ambient air quality and the steps that the EPD is taking in the monitoring of Barbados’ ambient air quality.

What is Ambient Air Quality?

The term ambient air quality refers to the quality of the outdoor air. All animal and plant life depends on clean air for survival, so air quality is a serious concern for us all.

What is the EPD Doing to Monitor the Air Quality of Barbados?

The Air and Noise section of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has embarked on a pilot project (2019-2020) where two ambient air quality stations have been set up in Barbados. One is located at the Treasury Building, Bridgetown and the other is at the D’Arcy Scott Roundabout in Warrens. The monitors provide indicative data or rather give an idea of the level of pollutants in Barbados as well as the trends for about a year. It is hoped that in the future that this project will be continued and enhanced to include more monitors some of which would be more robust equipment. Other tasks EPD conducts that are related to ambient air quality are:

  • Researching ambient air quality issues;
  • Developing and implementing policies and programmes to control ambient air quality; and
  • Investigating some complaints related to ambient air pollution (Click here to submit a complaint);

What can Contribute to Poor Air Quality?

Poor air quality results when a significant level of pollutant(s) are in the air. Pollutants can arise from a variety of sources. For example, there are man-made sources such as quarries or industrial stacks as well as natural sources such as Sahara dust.

Some common air pollutants monitored around the world include nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter. High levels of air pollutants may result in negative impacts on human health and the environment.

What are the Effects of Poor Air Quality?

Poor air quality can cause both short and long term health effects on humans. These include:

  • Short-term effects – irritation of the eyes, nose, throat as well as respiratory tract infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Long-term effects – chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and heart disease, with extreme cases resulting in damage to the brain, nerves, liver or kidneys.

It is important to remember that some individuals, such as young children, the elderly and persons with respiratory diseases are very easily affected by air pollution.

The Effects of Poor Air Quality on the Environment

Global climate change is caused by an accumulation of greenhouse gases such as methane in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases cause the 'Greenhouse Effect' which has been linked to effects such as increased atmospheric temperatures, ocean acidification and sea-level rise. Higher atmospheric temperatures may reduce average rainfall and increase rainfall intensities and drought conditions.

Ozone depletion is caused by ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These deplete the ozone layer, which protects the earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Notification in writing of the date and location of intended demolition or other operation shall be given to the EPD not less than fourteen (14) days before the operations commence.

In addition, combustion gases from vehicles and industrial processes may damage buildings, vegetation and marine life.

What Can I Do To Improve Ambient Air Quality?

The following actions can be carried out to help maintain "good" air quality in Barbados:

  1. Always obtain permission from the EPD before building, making alterations or changing the use of any structure for industrial or commercial activities. This includes extensions or renovations for home businesses.
  2. Maintain your vehicle in good working order.
  3. Businesses and industrial facilities should employ adequate environmental controls to reduce emissions to the atmosphere
  4. Use all products as directed on the labels including pesticides/ fertilizers, cleaning chemicals and raw materials
  5. Do not burn waste.
  6. Choose air-conditioning systems that use environmentally friendly refrigerants.

What Are The Legislation and Standards Used to Manage Ambient Air Quality?

Ambient air quality in Barbados is regulated using the Health Services (Nuisances) Regulations, 1969 and the Marine Pollution Control Act CAP. 392A, (MPCA). Under the Health Services (Nuisances) Regulations, 1969, a nuisance is defined as:‘any place, matter, thing, deposit or accumulation of liquid or solid matter that is full, in such a state, or so placed, made or left, as to be insanitary, injurious or dangerous to health or likely to become so’.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the Regulations can result in a fine upon summary conviction not exceeding $5,000 or up to twelve (12) months imprisonment, or both and in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding $200 for each day or part thereof during which the offence continues after a conviction is first obtained.

Section 4 of the MPCA outlines airborne sources as a potential cause of marine pollution and states that the extent of pollution from these sources should be characterised and described.

The EPD references international standards such as the World Health Organization guideline values and the United States Environmental Protection Agency National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the air pollutants: particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and lead.



*µg - micrograms (One-millionth of a gram)

Particulate Matter (PM2.5)

10 µg*/m3 annual mean

25 µg/m3 24-hour mean

Particulate Matter (PM10)

20 µg/m3 annual mean

50 µg/m3 24-hour mean


Ozone (O3)

100 µg/m3 8-hour mean

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

40 µg/m3 annual mean


200 µg/m3 1-hour mean


Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

200 µg/m3 1-hour mean

20 µg/m3 24 hour mean

500 µg/m3 10-minute mean

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

100 µg/m3 15-minute mean

60 µg/m3 30-minute mean


30 µg/m3 1-hour mean


10 µg/m3 8-hour mean

Lead (Pb)

0.5 µg/m3 annual mean