Wednesday 18 September 2019

Poor air quality responsible for an estimated 1,100 premature deaths every year - new report

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

POOR air quality arising from burning wood, coal and peat on open fires is responsible for an estimated 1,100 premature deaths every year, according to a new report.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says solid fuel burning and emissions from transport remain the main threats to good air quality, and that high levels of particulate matter - dust – is of growing concern.

Launching a new report, ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2017 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality’ EPA director general Laura Burke said while Irish air quality was in line with EU standards, some locations did not meet more stringent World Health Organisation (WHO) quality guidelines.

“We all expect that the air we breathe is clean but we cannot take this for granted,” she said.

“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 WHO 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.”

The report says that levels of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), the predominant source of which arises from use of solid fuels for home heating, is “consistently” above the WHO guideline value.

“This is the pollutant that the EEA has highlighted as having the greatest negative impact on the health of the Irish population, responsible for 1,100 of a total 1,150 premature deaths in 2015,” it says.

“We are also approaching the EU limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant from transport emissions, in our urban areas, with the potential for future exceedances if we experience weather conditions that are unfavourable to dispersion of air pollution for any extended period.”

The report notes that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) values were close to the EU limit in urban areas, largely due to transport emissions.

Tighter WHO air quality guideline values were exceeded at a number of monitoring sites for particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The report provides an overview of air quality for 2017, based on data from 29 monitoring stations which formed the National Ambient Air Quality Network.

The network is being expanded, with 16 new stations to be added this year and upgrades to another ten.

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