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Irish Air Quality Facing Pollution Challenges

Irish air quality facing pollution challenges from solid fuel burning and transport emissions.

The number of monitoring stations providing real-time air quality information to the public via the EPA website will have more than doubled in 2018 (from 19 in 2017 to 45).

Air quality monitoring results in 2017 showed that the burning of solid fuel and emissions from transport, both remain the main threats to good air quality in Ireland.

An estimated 1,150 premature deaths in Ireland are identified as being directly attributable to poor air quality, according to the European Environment Agency. This is mainly due to fine particulate matter levels from solid fuel burning.

We all have a role in play in improving the quality of the air we breathe. Our home heating and transport choices directly influence the level of pollution in the air around us. This pollution affects people’s health and their life expectancy.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Air Quality report, released just yesterday, shows that while Ireland’s air quality did not exceed legal limit values in 2017,  air quality in Ireland is impacting negatively on people’s health. Levels of particulate matter (dust) in our air is of a growing concern. Levels are particularly high during the winter months when the use of solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood, impact on air quality and on health, especially in small towns and villages.

In urban areas, transport related emissions of nitrogen dioxide are close to set down EU limit. The report also shows that Ireland is above the health-related and tighter World Health Organization and European Environment Agency guideline values.

In launching the report, “Air Quality in Ireland 2017 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality”, Director General of the EPA Laura Burke stated: “We all expect that the air we breathe is clean but we cannot take this for granted. It is now time to tackle the two key issues impacting negatively on air quality in Ireland – transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from solid fuel burning across the country.
While Ireland met all legal standards for air quality in 2017 at EPA monitoring stations, the levels of air pollution caused by burning solid fuel – including “back yard burning” – and by transport at some locations were above the World Health Organization air quality guidelines. The choices we all make as individuals affect the levels of pollution in the air we breathe which have an impact on people’s health and life expectancy”

Speaking at a National Air Event in Kilkenny last week, organised by the EPA, Francois Wakenhut from the European Commission’s Clean Air Unit clearly outlined the health impacts of air pollution in Ireland. He cited the European Environment Agency estimate of premature deaths occurring in Ireland each year due to fine particulate matter.

Mr Wakenhut stated: “There is an increasing awareness of the urgencies of air quality; people demand from government that we do more to deliver clean air. The European Environment Agency have estimated 1,150 premature deaths in Ireland are directly attributable to poor air quality, that is too many for Ireland and demands action”.

According to Patrick Kenny, (EPA Air Quality Manager): “The choices that each of us makes about how we heat our homes, dispose of our waste and travel to work and school can directly impact on our local air quality. Providing more localised, real-time air quality information will help people to be better informed when making these choices and will provide a better picture of what is impacting on our air quality. The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, managed by the EPA, is on track to deliver 16 new monitoring stations and upgrade 10 existing monitoring stations to real-time monitoring by the end of 2018.”

The Air Quality in Ireland 2017 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality report is available on the EPA website. An infographic is also available: Heating your home and its impact on air quality and health – Infographic of  of home heating choices and impact on air quality and health.
The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides the air quality index for health and real-time results on their website HERE.  Results are updated hourly on the website, and you can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality in your locality is good, fair or poor.

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