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Industrial Air Pollution In Trinidad And Tobago Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2587 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The contamination of the atmosphere by any toxic or radioactive gases and particulate matter as a result of human activity defines air pollution. (EMA State of the Environment Report 2000)

Over the years Trinidad and Tobago has focus on industrialization developing several industrial estates but greater focus was made to the energy sectors. They current have three major energy based industrial sites. The Point Lisas industrial estate, Point a Pierre petroleum refinery and Liquefied Natural Gas plant (LNG) located in Point Fortin. Trinidad and Tobago is considered to be one of the most industrialized countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean region. We have been blessed with a vast array of natural resources ranging from oil, natural gas and asphalt to manufactured petrochemicals. Despite the fact that oil production and refining is one of our main industry, petrochemicals and to a lesser extent steel plays great importance in the company economic growth. Trinidad & Tobago is world’s leading exporter of both methanol and ammonia, currently they supply the largest source of LNG is exported to the United States.

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Early views and realization of Air Pollution

To the general public air pollution was considered to be chemical emissions and that suspension and secondary pollutants will just dissipate with the aid of the wind and rain. As the country moves into a second wave of industrialization with several proposed plans of building the next economic hotspot in the Caribbean (Invest in T&T Downstream Energy), concerns has been made toward the quality of air what we live and breathe. It was only years later when technology began to play an important part in analyzing pollutants and air quality that it was realized that air pollution was just as important as water pollution.

The industrial sector in Trinidad &Tobago is one of the most dynamitic in the Caribbean and this is reflected in the diverse nature of its pollutants. Table 1 illustrates the numerous industry classes, commodities produced, production process and resulting in air pollutants.

Map 1: Existing & Proposed Energy Base Industrial Estates in Trinidad

Table 1: Industry in Trinidad & Tobago and air emission they emit






Menthol, ammonia, urea, ethanol, liquefied natural gas

Fossil fuel processing, industrial processes

Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, Carbon Monoxide


Metals, cements, consumer products

Manufacturing and extraction process, stock piling of raw materials, fossil fuel burning

Carbon Dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter PM (soot, dust, asbestos fibers, pesticides and metals). Volatile Organic Carbon (VOC)



Incomplete combustion

Carbon Monoxide, particulate matter

Petroleum Refineries

Refined oil, oil base products and sulfur /acids production

Fossil fuel burning, extraction process, transportation process, storage process,

Carbon Dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, particulate matter (soot, dust, asbestos fibers, pesticides and metals)


Animal waste, plant waste

Animal waste disposal/processing, rice paddies and wetlands, plant metabolism, land clearing

Methane, Carbon monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, particulate matter (dust), VOC

Electrical Power generation


Fossil fuel burning,

Particulate matters, Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, VOC

Mining & Quarrying


Blasting, mining, washing, extraction process

Suspended Particulates Matters (SPM); Total suspended particles (TSP); Particulate matters.

Wholesale and Retail

All consumer products

Service station operations, truck filling stations


Locations of Main Industrial Sectors

With industrialization comes a need for people to benefit with the high level of employment in these areas. The demographic transition cycle in Trinidad and Tobago is fairly predictive with many of the populated areas following the same paths along the industrialized map. (Map 2)In the initial stages of industrial development focus was made on establishing industries in sparsely populated areas. The intention was also to take advantage of the favorable wind direction which would direct most of the air pollutant west ward over (for the most part) approximately 5 miles of uninhabited land space and then to the Gulf, with the intension that the vegetation would be affected in a minor way during the dry season and would be assisted by run off during the rainy season.

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This idea inadvertently leads to another pollution problem. This proved to be a short term imitative, as these areas soon became an attractive alternative to the long commute thus encouraging the establishment of make- shift villages and shanty towns. This was also fueled by the fact that the southern and eastern main road were in close proximity to these estates.

Over time these villages soon became establish resistances acquiring basic utilities and official mailing addresses. The industries were now faced with a new obstacle. They now had to focus their attention to both the environment and the neighboring population. Table 2 identifies the main industrial pollutants found in Trinidad and Tobago and its effects on both the environment and humans.

Map 2: Industries and major roadways

Table 2: Main Industrial Pollutants and their Adverse Health and Environment Effects




Carbon Monoxide- CO

It is absorbed through the lungs reducing the blood’s capacity to transport available oxygen to the tissues. Depending on the exposure level it produces flu like symptoms usually not recognized and may results in death

There is minimum effect on the environment.

Sulphur Dioxides – SO2

Depending on the exposure level it can cause: cause wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, respiratory illness, alterations in the lungs, it aggravates existing cardiovascular disease.

When SO2 combines with water, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain. When acid rain falls it can cause deforestation, acidify waterways to the detriment of aquatic life. It also corrodes building materials.

Acid rain changes the physical appearance of vegetation “plants metabolism impaired”

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)/Oxides of Nitrogen NOx

At low levels it has minimum or no effects on human health. However high levels NO2 can cause respiratory problem, increase a person’s susceptibility to, and severity of infections and asthma. It can also affect the sensory system.

It is harmful to vegetation, can fade and discolor fabrics, reduce visibility.

Vegetation exposure to high levels of NOx can be identified by damage to foliage, decreased growth or reduced crop yield.

Volatile Organic Carbon -VOC

There are no general health effects of VOC because other gases make up VOC’s however some gases may be toxic and/or carcinogen.

Levels of exposure and time exposed can cause damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.

It is known to cause cancer in animals.

Suspended Particulates Matters (SPM); Total suspended particles (TSP); Particulate matters.

Health effects on SPM in humans depend on the particle size and concentration can cause long term exposure increases the rates of respiratory illness and symptoms.

Particulates can accelerate deterioration of surface and material.

It has the potential to cause modification of the climate and contributes to acid deposition.

Control Strategies Physical, Managerial and Legislative to Air Pollution

The visionaries of the early industries focus little on health safety and the environment and this was reflected in the level of controls initiated by the industries. Controls were mainly one dimensional and fail to focus on the holistic views of health safety and environment. Public opinion and outburst resulting from the increasing number of medical complaints and the decrease quality of agriculture produce with allegations pointing towards the emission from these industries, prompted management to use technology to assist in the establishment of more stringent controls. This technology was also instrumental in pinpointing the actual adverse effects as a result of these emissions.

Physical Controls

The physical control represents the processes responsible for acquisition of raw material, storage, manufacturing and distribution processes.

Use of Suppression Techniques

The numerous pollutants that emit daily, through smokestacks petrochemical and petroleum industries together with major health effects, force industries to reduce the pollutant at the source. One of the proven ways of reducing these pollutants is installing scrubbers and in other cases bagging houses in the emission system.

The use of end -of- pipe technology is being adapted by some industries, it is used to remove already formed contaminants in the air however it is proven to be very expensive and many industries internationally would rather pay the fines for higher emission levels than use this technique. In other words it is regarded as “the less of two evils”. These techniques force industries to adopt generic prevention strategies and solutions, only resorting to the more expensive techniques when face with dire consequences.

Environmental Friendly Process

With increasing pressure from environmental activists calling for industries to be more sensitive towards the environment, many industries have restructured their processes whereby recycling waste material as a new raw material to produce a second product. This process has been adapted by Methanol Holding Trinidad Limited (MHTL) were they have constructed an AUM plant. This plant is the first of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago being the most environmental friendly of the MHTL family. This plant comprises a diversified petrochemical complex to manufacture Urea Ammonia Nitrate (UAN) and Melamine using feedstock from integrated urea and ammonia plants. (MHTL)

The local cement factory adopted several controls strategies to deal with the air pollution problem within its manufacturing process. A change from blasting to stripping of the main raw material (limestone) aided in the reduction of dust emissions that was affecting the neighboring community at their quarrying central Trinidad. The transportation of the limestone was also change from dry to wet thus also reducing the potential dust particles entering the atmosphere during transportation from quarrying to the process plant. At the out skirts of the processing plant itself major landscaping was done to create hills around the factory adorned by buffer trees with sole intension is to reduce the level of dust exposure to the neighboring community.

Managerial Controls

Self Regulation

These controls consist of policies, systems and standards that govern and manage the organization. The establishments of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) help management keep focus in order to sustain established targets. Company policies and procedures acts as guidelines to maintain order and structure within the organization. The introduction of ISO standards advertises the company’s procedures to the industrial world thus ensuring that whatever measures initially introduced are sustained by the certification audits conducted annually by an international process auditors.

Legislative Controls

Currently in T&T there is no legislation that refers directly to controlling of air pollutant emitted by industries. This is merely due to the fact that early monitoring system generally focus on water and land pollution the understanding of air pollution did not produce tangible evident because of technological short falls. The existing legislation addresses non specific air pollutants like the Petroleum Act (rev. 1980) section 29 (1) (j) prevention of air pollution and the Public health ordinance (1950), section 70 (1) (m) prohibits blacks smoke from chimneys. Even though the EMA was establish and is the country’s sole environmental body responsible for managing, regulating and coordinating environmental matters. The EMA has only managed to draft the Air Pollution Rules 2001 however to date 2010 these rules have not been made law.

Trinidad and Tobago being a member of the Commonwealth and the United Nations has benefited from the research and technological advancement from these more developed countries (MDC). Initiatives such as the Montreal Protocol (1989 the control of CFC’s) and the Kyoto Protocol (1997 the reduction of Greenhouse Gases) assisted the legislative process of T&T by association. The only way legislative was establish was by piggy backing on the achievement of the more developed countries it seems that this was the only way the law maker could have had any impact on defaulters of air pollution in Trinidad. Only when legislation is pass the country can benefit from some effective control measures where polluters are prosecuted and emission limits are set for all industries.


Trinidad and Tobago historically is a nation of followers there have been very few instances where we were not promoted or assisted in some way or the other in achieving established goals and the topic of pollution is no exception. Have we ever wonder why the one establish air pollution laws stems from a diplomatic relations within the commonwealth and the United Nations or why we had to wait until the advent of OSHA to enforce existing safety laws in our country. The answer is simple we are still waiting to follow no wonder legislation spear headed by locals are treated with scan courtesy. Had these laws been establish in some first world convention they would have been rooted in the seams of our judicial system years ago? Many of the existing pollution laws governing the more develop countries were mainly as a result of international pressure, sadly Trinidad and Tobago is not view as a major polluting nation because of its geographical location and size. Evidence of pollution awareness is mainly seen in the new establish manufacturing countries whose parent companies originate overseas. It is only amongst of fellow less develops countries and Caribbean members that Trinidad and Tobago is recognize as a polluting nation sadly these countries have little impact on global view.

Despite our shortcomings, internally there has been an intensified effort to effectively monitor record, control and enforce pollution reducing systems and strategies. Internationally the over site of Trinidad and Tobago (a country that can easily fit into the Orinoco River with a population that barely exceeds large town in the United States) has not deterred local efforts to manage the levels of air emissions.


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