Researchers to assess role of diesel cars in air pollution
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin are to undertake a €250,000 study to assess the impact emissions from diesel engines have on air quality and the environment.
The move comes after German car manufacturer Volkswagen was found guilty of cheating emissions tests in the US, with other car companies also under suspicion and facing investigation.
Recent sales of new cars across Ireland and Europe are dominated by diesel engines.
While modern diesels emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) than their petrol counterparts, they produce considerably larger amounts of pollutants which are damaging to human health.
Last year, some 86,000 of the 121,000 new cars sold in Ireland had diesel engines, figures from the Central Statistics Office show.
"With the significant rise in the share of diesel vehicles in the vehicle fleet in Ireland of late, there is a pressing need to assess the impact of this on human health," assistant professor in civil, structural and environmental engineering at TCD, Dr Aonghus McNabola, said.
"This increase is driven by a need to reduce CO2 emissions and climate change but may come at the cost for public health."
Exposure to particulate air pollution from vehicles has been shown to increase the rates of aggravated asthma, respiratory ailments and premature death.
Older adults, children, and people with existing heart or lung disease are most at risk.
Separately, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has established the Climate Change Advisory Council on a statutory footing.
It is tasked with providing advice in relation to reducing emissions and moving Ireland towards a low-carbon future.