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Air quality needs 'urgent attention' as ammonia emissions continue to rise

   

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Air quality across the country is suffering because of rising ammonia emissions which have breached EU limits for the third year in a row.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the increase was due to the expansion of agriculture, in particular the growth of dairy farming.

Agriculture now accounts for 99pc of all ammonia emissions and the EPA said it was likely Ireland would remain in breach of EU limits for the next decade.

It said the issue needed urgent attention and urged a range of measures to be taken on farms to control emissions from animal manure and fertiliser.

Ammonia is one of five major air pollutants that are deemed a risk to human health, water quality, soil quality and wildlife.

Almost 1,200 people die prematurely from poor air quality in Ireland each year.

The EPA's latest report shows levels of nitrogen oxide - chiefly caused by vehicle fumes - fell slightly but remain above EU limits.

EPA senior manager Stephen Treacy said levels would likely fall this year because of the coronavirus restrictions, but only a dramatic move towards electric vehicles would drive long-term reductions.

Emissions of sulphur dioxide - a major cause of acid rain and the corrosion of buildings and structures - is reducing in line with EU requirements. Some improvement was also evident in the levels of two other key causes of air pollution, particulate matter and non-methane volatile organic compounds.

Dr Eimear Cotter of the Office of Environmental Sustainability warned, however, that emissions of all pollutants needed to fall as tighter EU limits would come into effect in 2030.

"Emissions of all air pollutants need to reduce to protect air quality and health," she said.

"Ammonia emissions need to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The Government has had a national 'clean air strategy' to address all air pollution under development for the past few years.

Irish Independent