The Environmental Protection Agency Air Quality in Ireland 2017 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality report, released today, shows that while Ireland’s air quality did not exceed legal limit values in 2017, Ireland’s air quality is impacting negatively on people’s health.
Levels of particulate matter – dust – in our air is of growing concern. Levels are particularly high during the winter months when people’s use of solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood impacts on air quality and on health, especially in small towns and villages. In urban areas, transport related emissions of nitrogen dioxide are close to the EU limit. The report also shows that Ireland is above the health-related and tighter World Health Organization and European Environment Agency guideline values.
“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”, said Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA at the launch today.
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.
“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”, said Mr Wakenhut.
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.”
Although Ireland did not exceed any legal EU limit values for ambient air quality monitored at any of the air quality network monitoring stations –
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) values were close to the EU limit in urban areas. This is due largely to our reliance on fossil-fuelled motor vehicles for transport.
- The tighter World Health Organization air quality guideline values were exceeded at a number of monitoring sites for the following pollutants: particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
- Concentrations of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were above European Environment Agency reference levels.