Many times we have heard phrases like "nothing can be done against corrosion", or "just give it a touch up”. While it is true that corrosion is a natural phenomenon and happens naturally, we don't have to live with it, and much less ignore it by small touch-up painting to mitigate the signs of rust. The cost of corrosion involves an important part of the gross domestic product (GDP) and takes place in a wide range of examples, from large structures to implants placed in the human body.

From 1999 to 2001, the United States had a total annual direct cost due to corrosion issues of approximately 276 billion dollars, or 3.1% of their GDP. Similarly, in Peru, according to the Teknoquamica company, in the year 2000 losses by corrosion accounted for 8% of GDP, i.e., approximately 1,200 million dollars. Trinidad and Tobago hasn't done any study to estimate costs that represent losses by corrosion. Despite this, problems due to this phenomenon can be felt so it is clear then the need to implement the relevant measures. There are different reasons why the phenomenon has not been controlled in an appropriate manner, ranging from climatic to economics.  The situation, as you might guess, affects equally the majority of Latin American countries in which Governments and environmental conditions are similar. Governments practically do not pay attention to the problem of corrosion, not by lack of trained staff but by the lack of an unified policy on maintenance of structures.

It is well known that little by little the private company is becoming aware of the issue of corrosion and the damage phenomenon causes when it is not address in a timely manner. But what is the corrosion? Corrosion can be defined in many ways. Some definitions are very direct and focus to a specific type of corrosion, while others are very general and cover many forms of deterioration. The word "corrode" is derived from the Latin word “corrodere” which means "gnawing parts". For most purposes, corrosion can be characterized as an electrochemical reaction between a material - usually a metal - and its environment which produces a deterioration of the material and its properties. The metals are rarely found in a pure state but rather almost always combined with one or more non metallic chemical elements and ores are usually an oxidized form of the metal. Therefore, a significant amount of energy should be applied to transform the ore into pure metal. This energy can be applied via metallurgy or chemical; additionally extra energy is required in the form of cold work or by casting processes necessary to transform the pure metal into a usable piece. Corrosion can be also defined as the tendency of a metal - produced and formed by a substantial application of energy - to return to its natural state of lower energy. From a thermodynamic perspective, the tendency to decrease the energy level is the main force that induces corrosion in metals.

The effects of corrosion in our daily life are classified into direct and indirect. Those affecting useful service of our real life are the direct.  Indirect are those in which the producers and consumers of goods and services have influence on the corrosion costs. At home for instance, the phenomenon is observed directly in the automotive, steel burglar prove or windows, metal tools and others.

One of the more serious consequences of corrosion happens when it affects our lives directly. When we move from home to work or school, you can see a series of problems due to the phenomenon of corrosion. For example, in a bridge in the highway corrosion may occur in the reinforcing steel rod inside the concrete, which can fracture it and, consequently, cause the failure of any section; similarly, the collapse of electric transmission towers may occur. These may damage buildings, structures, factories and others, without mentioning the environment impact and costly repairs that follows.

Just to mention a case, in December 1999, off the coast of Biscay, North of Spain, the tanker MV Erika sank due to a hull rupture caused by corrosion. The result: approximately 20 thousand tons of crude oil spilled into the sea, which caused great damage to the marine ecosystem.

To control corrosion it is necessary to know the process or mechanisms of corrosion, or in what manner it originates. Corrosion takes place in different ways. Its classification is usually based on one of these three factors:

1. Nature of the electrolyte: corrosion can be classified as "wet" or "dry". It is necessary to have a liquid solution or mixture for wet corrosion to occur. Dry corrosion usually involves the reaction with gases at high temperature.

2. Mechanism of corrosion: involves electrochemical reactions or direct reaction with a chemical.

3. Appearance of corroded metal: corrosion can be uniform where metal corrodes at the same rate along the surface, or it may be localized, in which only small areas are affected.

The most common classification of wet corrosion based on the appearance of the metal is identified in the following forms: general or uniform corrosion; pitting corrosion; galvanic corrosion; corrosion-erosion, which includes cavitation-erosion; intergranular corrosion, which includes sensitization and exfoliation; de-alloying, including dezincification, and environmentally assisted cracking, which includes corrosion under stress, corrosion fatigue and damage by evolution of hydrogen.

In theory, the eight forms of corrosion are clearly distinct. In practice, however, there are cases of corrosion that includes more than one from; in other cases it do not seem to conform to any of these forms.

Depending on the way in which corrosion occurs, an appropriate technique must be chosen to control it or prevent it.

There are five main primary corrosion control methods:

1. Selection of materials. Resistance to corrosion of a metal depends on the environment to which it is exposed. Once taking this into consideration you can carry out a good selection of materials for a specific use.

2. Coatings. Coatings for protection against corrosion can be divided into two large groups: Metallic and non Metallic (Organic and Inorganic). With any type of coating that is selected the goal is the same: isolating the metallic surface from the corrosive environment. of the corrosive medium.

3. Inhibitors. Some chemicals (salts, for example) cause corrosion, other chemical inhibit it. Chromates and silicates and organic amines are common inhibitors. The mechanisms of inhibition can be a little complex. Depending of the type, the inhibitor could be adsorbed on the specific sites to override the corrosion current. Others promote the formation of a protective film on the surface of the metal. Inhibitors can be incorporated in a protective coating as well.

4. Cathodic protection. The purpose of cathodic protection is to eliminate the current associated with the electrochemical process that occurs in wet corrosion. For this an external artificially generated current is impressed over the structure. A system comprising a sacrificial material (anode) is used, such as zinc or magnesium, which are connected to the structure to provide protection. While the anode corrodes the adjacent structure is then protected.

5. Design. The application of principles of design can eliminate many problems of corrosion and reduces the time and cost associated with maintenance and repair. Corrosion occurs frequently in small spaces or loopholes in which corrosive medium starts to be more aggressive. These areas can be eliminated or minimized in the design process. Where the corrosion under stress is possible, the components can be designed to operate at low levels of stress.

For all of the above, it is very important that the engineers or specialist in corrosion, materials engineer, maintenance supervisors and reliability engineers to have sufficient knowledge to control this phenomenon. They must recognize it and know what is its origin and its severity; They must keep themselves updated on the tools and methods available today, as well as the inspection techniques, the effects of design variables, how to interpret and apply information on the corrosion and know where to get help.

For more information on Corrosion you can contact our Metallurgy department at:

Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI)
Trincity West Industrial Estate,
Macoya.
Telephone: 285-5050 ext. 3110
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Divestment is defined as the decision to voluntarily reduce one’s fossil fuel investments. Arguments for divestment have generally focused on the morality of investments, but recently the economic value of divestment has become a main consideration. Internationally, the growth of wind and solar energy generation has made divestment very attractive.

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Figure 1. Global drive towards divestment and reinvestment in renewable technologies

While falling prices for oil, natural gas, and coal over the past two years triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, the renewable energy industry has been prospering. Investment in green energy broke new records in 2015 and is now experiencing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels. One reason for this occurrence is that renewable energy is becoming cheaper to produce in this current low cost oil environment. For example, in 2015 a solar project in Dubai produced and offered electricity more cheaply than that produced by natural gas at a rate of US$0.058 per kwH.  

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Figure 2. DEWA 13 Solar Plant, Dubai, http://www.firstsolar.com/en/About-Us/Projects/DEWA-13-Solar-Plant

Government subsidies targeting renewable energy sources have boosted wind and solar energy in global power markets, but the real driving force for falling production costs of renewable are economies of scale. For example, the cost of solar power has fallen by 150 times its cost in the 1970s, while the total amount of installed solar has increased 115,000-fold worldwide. 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) since 2000, the share of electricity produced by solar energy globally has increased 14 times over while wind energy has increased five times over during the same period. In relation to this, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has noted that each time global wind energy doubles, there is a 19% decrease in cost and each time global solar energy doubles, there is a 24% decrease in cost.

It should be noted, that this is the first time that solar and wind are beginning to compete head-to-head with fossil fuels on price and annual investment.  Solar as a power generation source is likely to dominate in the future due to the fact that it is a technology rather than a fuel. Additionally the cost of the battery technology used for the storage of solar generated electricity has similarly been decreasing.  Natural gas will still be required for power generation during times of low sun and wind generation but this may change with the advent of economical storage technologies.

Divestment opportunities exist globally based on the falling costs of renewable energy technologies over time. Generally however, the transition to renewable energy power generation is not occurring fast enough to stop global dependence on fossil fuels but, it is happening nonetheless. 

Do you sometimes feel that you are stifling when you are inside your home or in your work area? Or do you experience watery eyes, sneezing or itchy skin or throat on entering a building? Then it is likely you may be experiencing the symptoms of an improperly ventilated building.   

So you may be asking, what is meant by ventilation?  Ventilation is the process of supplying fresh air (usually outdoor air) to or removing air from a space for the purpose of controlling air contaminant levels, humidity, or temperature.  Ventilation means that some form of air exchange occurs within a given timeframe. 

Ventilation is important in enclosed areas such as offices and homes because it prevents pollutants from negatively affecting the health of occupants and removes unwanted smells and other indoor air contaminants and controls the amount of moisture in an area. Controlling moisture is particularly important because excess moisture may lead to mold growth.

Mold growth is of extreme concern because it can have negative health effects in susceptible persons such as the elderly and children. Symptoms may be minor but long-term exposure to mold can cause major health problems. Some of the symptoms of mold exposure may include nose, throat and eye irritation, headaches, fever, respiratory tract irritation and asthma.

There are a few ways that ventilation can be provided to your home or office area. These include:  

    • Allowing air to enter naturally through windows, doors or ventilation blocks.  In the event of a bush fire or when odors or dust are present outdoors, windows and doors should be immediately closed. 
    • Installing exhaust fans at various spots throughout your home or office area to allow air to be pushed in or out. Examples of these are usually found over stoves (range hoods) or in bathrooms.
    • Introducing filtered outdoor air into your air-conditioning unit.  In buildings that utilize a centralized air-conditioning system, this can be accomplished by ducting the outdoor air directly into the unit.  Speak to your air-conditioning contractor to ensure that this is being done.
    • In buildings that use split air-conditioning units, ventilation is more difficult as such units are not designed to accommodate outdoor air introduction.  Persons should consider naturally ventilating such air-conditioning spaces for short periods of time if feasible. It is important to note, that in order for air-conditioning systems to be effective in cooling areas and providing adequate ventilation, they should be maintained on a regular basis to avoid blockages and to prevent pollutants from being trapped in your home or office.

Indoor air quality testing can also be done to determine whether the ventilation system in your building is working effectively in providing adequate air exchanges as well as removing unwanted chemicals and pollutants.  Indoor air sampling also can aid in the monitoring of various parameters which are indicative of indoor air quality and ventilation problems, and serve to identify the root cause of indoor air quality ailments.

It is important to note, for those of us working for example, in laboratories and office buildings that the Occupational Safety and Health Act of Trinidad and Tobago, Amended 2006 states that employers are required to provide adequate ventilation.  This does not only mean that a space should be air-conditioned to provide cooling but also means that some form of air exchange should occur through the introduction of outdoor air.

Be informed as to how poor ventilation affects you and your loved ones and how to improve the quality of the air that you breathe through ventilation. 

Why should I use CARIRI’s services?

CARIRI has positioned itself as a premier technology Institute based on service quality. Quality is a hallmark of the services provided to clients in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and extra regional markets. As part of its commitment to providing the highest quality services, CARIRI has established several quality management systems that work together to maintain the Institute’s overall high quality standards such as ISO9001:2008 and ISO 17025:2005. Alongwithourotherqualitycertifications,CARIRIisalsoSTOWcertified.

CARIRI also has a multi-disciplinary team with extensive experience and a wide range of skills to meet the needs of the client. The team is headed by an Environmental Specialist who is supported by a cadre of professional and technical staff that are Council-Certified Environmental Consultants accredited by the American Council of Accredited Certification (ACAC) and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB) which is the most prestigious certification specific to Indoor Air Quality.

Some of the services offered by CARIRI in the area of Indoor Air Quality include but are not limited to:

    • Air Quality testing for any indoor air pollutant
    • Air-conditioning and Ventilation systems inspections
    • Mold testing both in the air and on surfaces
    • Environmental sampling for common allergens
    • Noise surveys
    • Occupational health risk assessment
    • Occupant surveys

For more information on Indoor Air Quality testing feel free to contact CARIRI’s Air Quality Management Solutions department at:

Trincity West Industrial Estate,
Macoya,
Tel: (868) 285-5050 ext. 3300
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

American writer, David Auerbach, said it best: “In Wine there is Wisdom. In Beer there is Freedom. In Water there is Bacteria”. More than just a catchy phrase, it is also true, well at least about water. This article highlights one of the lesser-known waterborne bacteria: Legionella.

What is Legionella?

Legionellais a pathogenic (disease-causing) group of bacteria found naturally in freshwater environments. It thrives in warmer waters as high as 50oC. It can even invade man-made systems such as cooling towers, swimming pools, hot-water showers and faucets, ice-making machines, decorative fountains, hot water tanks and heaters, hot tubs, saunas and whirlpool spas.

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The bacterium can survive for months in tap and distilled water. Legionella appears to be more resistant to chlorine than the well-known food-borne pathogen, Escherichia coli.

At least 40 species of Legionella have been shown to cause disease, but the most prominent pathogenic species is Legionella pneumophilia.

History:

Legionella was first discovered after an outbreak in 1976 among people who went to a Convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, there was a seemingly unknown outbreak of a disease in guests staying at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, which sickened 221 persons and resulted in the death of 34 individuals. Those affected suffered from a type of pneumonia (lung infection) that eventually became known as Legionnaires’ disease.

In January 1977, after an extensive investigation, the Legionella bacterium was finally identified and isolated by scientists of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It was found to be breeding in the cooling tower of the hotel’s rooftop air conditioning system, which allowed it to spread throughout the building.

How is Legionella transmitted?

Legionella bacteria typically does not spread directly between people – it is not contagious.

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Transmission of the Legionella bacteria occurs when microscopic airborne droplets of water or mist that contains elevated levels of bacteria is inhaled. In addition, droplets and particles may accidently enter the respiratory system rather than the digestive system during the swallowing process (aspiration).

Legionella bacteria can affect anyone, including healthy individuals. However, Legionella is an "opportunistic" bacteria that usually affects individuals with underlying illnesses or conditions. Individuals particularly at risk include those with respiratory disease, diabetes (as well as dialysis patients), cancer, weakened immune systems, organ transplant patients, the elderly, and heavy smokers or drinkers.

What are the effects of exposure to Legionella?

Legionella is the causative agent of legionellosis, a term coined for all diseases caused by this type of bacteria. Legionellosis includes two distinct forms: Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac Fever.

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Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. The incubation period is 2 to 10 days and rarely up to 20 days. Legionnaires’ disease usually lasts for weeks, with a fairly high mortality rate. Legionnaires’ disease is often initially characterized by anorexia, malaise, lethargy and a mild unproductive cough. Though most symptoms are non-specific, they include: Loss of strength (asthenia), High fever, Headache, Chills, Muscle pain, Difficulty breathing, Chest pain, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Nausea, Central nervous system manifestations, such as confusion and delirium, and even Renal failure (World Health Organization, 2007).

Pontiac fever refers to an acute flu-like illness that is milder than Legionnaires’ disease, self-limiting (resolving itself without treatment) and non-fatal. The incubation period is 5 hours to 3 days (most commonly between 24 to 48 hours). Pontiac fever usually last for 2-5 days. Typical symptoms include: Influenza-like illness (moderate to severe), Loss of strength (asthenia), tiredness, High fever and chills, Muscle pain (myalgia), Headache, Joint pain (arthralgia), Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Difficult breathing (dyspnoea) and dry cough (World Health Organization, 2007).

Prevalence:

A report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that from 2000 to 2014, the rate of reported cases of legionellosis, increased nearly fourfold. CDC Director, Mr. Tom Frieden, reported that "People are unnecessarily and avoidably getting sick and dying from preventable infections. And the cases carry a high price tag: The annual cost of treating Legionnaire’s disease, based on hospital claims, is about $434 million”.

The CDC analyzed outbreaks it had investigated from 2000 to 2014 that involved 415 cases, including 65 deaths. Most of the outbreaks were in buildings with large or complex water systems, such as hotels, hospitals and long-term-care facilities. About half of outbreaks examined were the result of a single failure, such as a broken disinfection system or human error. The most common sources of the bacteria were water in showers, cooling towers and hot tubs.

Treatment & Prevention:

There are no vaccines for preventing legionellosis. Medical treatment for Legionnaires’ disease requires the use of antibiotics. The best method of prevention is to eliminate water conditions that allow the Legionella bacteria to thrive and to prevent the spreading of contaminated aerosols.

Measures include good maintenance of equipment and devices, application of physical (temperature) and/or chemical measures (biocides) to minimize growth. Some examples include:

    • Regular maintenance, cleaning and disinfection of cooling towers;
    • Maintaining an adequate level of a biocide (e.g. chlorine) in major water distribution systems;
    • Keeping the hot water at 60°C and the cold below 20°C or alternatively treating them with a suitable biocide to limit growth;
    • Keeping hot and cold water systems clean and free of scale in order to reduce stagnation and
    • Flushing unused taps in buildings on a weekly basis.

Applying such controls can greatly reduce the risk of Legionella contamination and prevent the occurrence of outbreaks. Don’t allow these tiny bacteria to turn the tables and put you in hot water.

Contact CARIRI’s Environmental Microbiology Laboratory for more information on Legionella Evaluations at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 285-5050 ext 3504/3509/3512.


 

HACCP logo

Companies that are growing and expanding into new markets will face this question at some point in time.  Most start-up food businesses do not even consider the implementation of HACCP in the initial stages of their operations.  Start-up business owners are at that time generally focused on marketing their business in order to reach potential customers, increasing their revenue and trying to manage their cash flow so that they can continue to be sustainable.  Eventually though, as market share increases, particularly as the business offerings and products reach international markets, the food company will have to deal with the legal requirements of their new markets, which often includes HACCP implementation.

But what exactly is HACCP?  Well, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and is an internationally-recognized food safety management system for assuring food safety in the production of food items, whether the food is packaged as is done by food manufacturers or ready-to-eat as is normally the case for food service establishments, such as restaurants.  HACCP requires that a food company examines its production process for potentially harmful/hazardous steps and implement preventative or control measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to the consumer.

At this time, the implementation of HACCP by food companies is not a legal requirement in Trinidad and Tobago.  As a result, many local food processing and food service facilities may feel that there is no justifiable need to implement such a system since they are not legally bound to do so.  However, all companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago have a social responsibility to ensure that their products and activities do not harm the consumer.  Based on this premise, it can be suggested that the implementation of HACCP or any similar food safety management system by local food establishments is simply such companies fulfilling their social obligations even if a legal one has not been imposed by the State.

Nevertheless, when discussing HACCP, the cost of implementation, as it relates to time, staff and financial resources, cannot be ignored and is likely to be one of the main reasons food establishments are reluctant to pursue HACCP unless required by local or international laws.  However, food business owners should be reminded that implementing HACCP in your food facility can bring many benefits that can readily translate into increased revenue.  These benefits include:

    • Better control of products and raw materials which translates to less wastage and money saved.  Imagine how much money is wasted when food products are poorly manufactured or prepared and have to be disposed of as a result of poor quality and safety.  Additionally, raw materials that are not food safe oftentimes cannot be transformed into foods that are safe and of a high standard.
    • Consider for example, a restaurant cooking a chicken that was received from the supplier at room temperature rather than cold or frozen.  Meats stored at room temperature will begin to spoil from high bacterial growth and from the development of off-flavors and off-textures.  Consequently, even when cooked, the chicken can still contain harmful bacteria, and the taste and texture may not be to the liking of the customers.  The result is that the restaurant, out of consideration for its customers will have to dispose of the chicken as waste.  A HACCP program would require that the restaurant only uses chicken that was received cold or frozen and thus wastage is avoided and food safety assured.
    • HACCP in a food business fosters customer confidence which means that customers will buy more of your food since they trust your food’s safety and quality.  It is not difficult to realize that this also means an increase in sales for the company.  The company can increase the population’s awareness of the assured safety of its products by including the highlighting of its HACCP system in its marketing plan and branding its products and facility with its HACCP certification.
    • HACCP implementation allows food businesses, such as food manufacturers and processors, to export to international markets that require food safety management systems implementation.  

In recent years, the local food and beverage sector has had to deal with the challenges of changing food safety requirements to international market standards, such as the USA and Canada.  Unfortunately, too many of our local food manufacturers were unprepared for the requirement of working food safety management systems and are facing the loss of profitable markets or finding themselves in a mad scramble to implement HACCP or similar food safety management systems.  In both scenarios, companies no longer have the option to spread the cost of HACCP implementation over the medium to long-term, but instead find themselves having to spend significant sums in the short-term or lose valuable revenue.

Additionally, food manufacturers who supply international food service franchises, such as KFC, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and so on, are required by these franchises to have HACCP systems implemented in their food facilities.  Without an established and effective HACCP system, companies that wish to supply food items to Trinidad and Tobago’s burgeoning numbers of international fast food and restaurant franchises will find themselves classified as unsuitable and thus the potential for increased revenue will not be theirs.

It is hoped that based on the information provided about HACCP and its benefits, local food businesses will realize that whether or not they implement HACCP in their companies, there is still a cost.  The question therefore is ‘which price is your company willing to pay?’

CARIRI’s Biotechnology Unit recently hosted a one day workshop on an “Introduction to HACCP” on Friday 24th March 2017 at our Centre for Enterprise Development, Innovation Avenue, Freeport which was well attended by over 50 participants. The workshop was designed to provide an understanding of the seven principles of HACCP in detail.

For more information on our Biotechnology services or to register for future workshops, please contact Ms. Jessica Ramoutar at 299-0210 ext. 5687/ 310-4529 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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