Air pollution close to breaching safety limits in homes bordering the M50
Air pollution linked to respiratory illness and asthma flare-ups is close to breaching EU safety limits where homes border the M50 motorway.
Some days, the nitrogen dioxide (N02) in the air does breach safety thresholds but results are averaged over a year, which keeps overall totals within permissible levels.
High levels of NO2 have been detected in parts of Castleknock, Tallaght, Cherry Orchard and Palmerstown - all residential areas with homes close to the M50.
NO2 is produced by burning fuel and is prevalent in areas of heavy traffic. At high levels. it can cause throat and lung problems, contribute to the development of asthma and aggravate existing asthma. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
Roderic O'Gorman, a Dublin city councillor, who obtained the test results, said it was a concern that many residents were living in areas with poor air quality, particularly as traffic on the M50 was increasing.
"It's one thing if you're passing through a polluted area but these people are living, working and playing here so they can't escape it," he said.
"The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1,200 people die prematurely due to air pollution every year.
"That's a huge number of people but we don't have campaigns to draw attention to it like we do with other causes of premature death."
Under EU regulations, NO2 should not exceed 40 micrograms per cubic metre, averaged over a year. Records from June 2018 to May 2019 show that on numerous occasions in at least six locations, levels have exceeded 40 micrograms, reaching almost 60 micrograms at times. Winter days are the most problematic.
If EU limits are breached, local authorities must act to improve air quality which could mean restricting traffic.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) began testing the air at 34 monitoring points along the M50 last year and has recently added eight more along the Dublin Tunnel.
TII spokesman Sean O'Neill said better traffic flow would help ease NO2 emissions.
"One of the problems is congestion, with engines idling and emissions building up, so if we can improve that, we can improve air quality," he said.