- A sampling site in Spitzbergen, located in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica.
- The quiet calm of Frenchman's Cove in the Parish of Portland, Jamaica
- A group of basic school children from one of many schools screened for lead contamination
The main thrust of the ICENS is on solving problems that are of national, regional, and global importance, and on building up the human resource and information bases necessary for sustainable development. The Centre's focus on environmental geochemistry will provide data that are applicable to agriculture, natural resources identification, environmental assessment and preservation, man-made and natural hazards, water resource management, and the marine and coastal zones. These areas are fundamental to sustainable socio-economic development and reflect many of the priority areas of the jamaica national Science and Technology Policy.
Specific Areas of Interest
The three main laboratory sections of ICENS Analytical and Support Facilities collaborate in multidisciplinary work on the following topics, taking part in the successive stages of field sampling, laboratory analysis, data handling, interpretation and dissemination of information online or as hardcopy publications:
- Geochemical Baselines
- Relationships between the Geochemistry of the Natural Environment and Health
- Agriculture and Food Security
- Global Environmental Change and Potential Threats to Jamaica
- Spatial Geoscience
- Water Resources Management
- Peaceful Applications of the Atom
Profiles of some ICENS Research Projects
Our report “ICENS: The First Twenty Years: 1984 to 2004” gives a full account of the first period of our operations and our capabilities and is available for DOWNLOAD. Other collaborative projects profiled briefly here are:
Geochemical Atlas of Jamaica (1995)
This first Geochemical Atlas of Jamaica reports on the initial stages of the examination of the geochemistry of 165 samples of Jamaican soils collected over the onshore area of 10 991 km2. The Atlas details:
- The sample types, sampling methods and sample treatments used for regional geochemical studies in the Jamaican environment
- The analytical methods used for soils, rocks, stream sediments, and water
- The distribution in surface soils of thirty-two elements: Al, As, Br, Ca, Cd, Ce, Co, Cr, Cu, Dy, Eu, Fe, Hf, Hg, I, La, Lu, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, Pb, Sb, Sc, Sm, Sr, Th, Ti, U, V, Yb and Zn
- The distribution in surface soils of pH and gamma radiation
- Data on surface and underground waters, including nitrate, phosphate, Na and heavy metals, plus the metals: Al, Cd, Co, Cr, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn.
Mitigating lead poisoning in rural communities
In this programme ICENS investigated the effects of lead exposure on foods and people between 1995 and 2005. The work was carried out in three successive projects, each one supported by a research grant from the.
Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ):
1. “Mitigation of Lead Hazard in the Hope Mine Area” (1995–96) mapping of lead contamination in the Hope mine area, to define the hot-spot area and to mitigate the lead hazard.
- 2. “Improvement of Community Health in the Hope River valley through Lead Abatement” (2000–02) focusing on community health, isolating the remaining lead contamination areas by testing food, dust, air, water, paint and other possible sources of lead exposure.
3. “Childhood Screening for Lead Poisoning and Lead Mitigation in Jamaica” (2003–2005) testing blood levels of lead in children across Jamaica in the age group 3-7 years, beginning in inner city schools in Kingston, Montego Bay, Mandeville, Port Antonio and Browns Town, and extending to rural areas.
About 1000 children at basic schools were screened for blood lead to identify risk areas for further examination. The response and cooperation of parents, teachers and children was excellent. The ‘hot-spot’ areas where mapping and analysis of survey samples by ICENS indicated highest risk were examined in detail to identify possible sources of lead exposure, e.g. soil, dust, water, food, and cooking utensils. A community-based intervention programme was developed (including education of the public, the parents, teachers, and children on how to minimize exposure to lead) and targeted at the population at risk. The study results provided a database which will be used for future monitoring of blood lead levels of Jamaican children.
The range of blood lead levels observed for Jamaican children was very large (see graphics) and eighty children were given medical attention, several receiving repetitions of chelation therapy over periods of time. High levels of chronic exposure to lead can contribute to seizures, reduced intelligence, lower productivity and aberrant, sometimes violent behaviour that place social and financial burdens on society. The higher blood lead values were found mainly in the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporate area and in St. Catherine. It was possible to reduce most of the high levels by isolation of the contamination from the environment, education, and improved nutrition and hygiene, although there remain some intermediate values which should receive attention.
The main sources of exposure to lead in Jamaica have been mine waste in and around Kintyre, about 600 metres ESE of Papine and just under a kilometer from the abandoned Hope Mine. Elsewhere, for example in St Catherine, the contamination caused by backyard recycling of used lead-acid batteries is the chief source of lead exposure in Jamaica. Mine waste seems to have been effectively dealt with by isolating it beneath layers of marl and concrete, a method that can be recommended wherever feasible. The smelter-contaminated soils so far identified are mainly in St. Catherine and in the Corporate area; some smelters have also been observed on fishing beaches. Other potential sources exist, most of which are already regulated by the government: the sale of leaded gasoline for automobiles, leaded paints, and toys, trinkets etc. that contain lead are banned. Food and water appear to contribute little to population exposure.
One of the most valuable aspects of the project was raising the awareness of the general population about the incidence and risks of lead poisoning. ICENS also established useful collaborations with the medical fraternity. Both outcomes helped to improve the discovery of lead poisoned children and the care they receive.
Interventions, including the building of an awareness of the nature and risks of chronic lead poisoning amongst health care providers and caregivers, helped to reduce the immediate and future dangers of lead poisoning. In the longer term the reduction of blood lead levels in children nationally will require concerted action not only in education and regulation but also by adopting aggressive prevention and case management including the development of a small public health unit which has this responsibility. The infrastructure and technical skills to do this are available, and it is reasonable to expect that in the near future the blood lead levels of most Jamaican children will meet international norms.
- Cluster analysis of rice.
Stable isotope analysis in environmental chemistry.
EShare: sharing environmental data and information online.
ICENS has produced huge amounts of data for more than 30 years. All data have been stored digitally and each item is represented by a point location on the map of Jamaica. In order to become useful data have to be processed to show meaningful relationships and patterns and
ICENS applies multidisciplinary science to build its data into useful information. This helps us to understand what processes are at work when we monitor the Jamaican environment – for example, what effects are caused by natural processes and which are caused by people.
ICENS databases and digital information systems are enabling Jamaica to build up a more and more complete picture of the chemistry of its environment and its effect on plants, animals, foodstuffs and people. This information is an important national endowment for future planners and decision takers in agriculture, natural resources, environmental protection, nutrition, health and land use. It is expensive to gather survey and laboratory data and impossible to replace them, and ICENS preserves their integrity in digital forms that can be readily retrieved and safely shared between different users.
EShare is one information system recently launched by ICENS as a future national digital archive to allow networking between public sector agencies and other stakeholders concerned with the environment. It allows sharing of data and information through an open access digital store. The advantages are:
- Interagency collaboration and decision support for Government
- Dissemination of research agendas and findings for academia
- Timely access to potential business opportunities for the private sector:
- Access to data and information to assist in advocacy by NGOs and to educate and inform the public
The current members of EShare are:
- Rural Physical Planning Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
- ICENS, UWI and the OPM
- Environmental Management Division, OPM
- UWI Department of Geography and Geology
- UWI faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences
FIND OUT MORE AT ESHARE