The EPA has published its annual air quality report ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2021’, which shows that, while air quality in Ireland is generally good and compares favourably with many of our European neighbours, there are concerning localised issues that are impacting negatively on the air we breathe. Ireland met all of its EU legal requirements in 2021, but it did not meet the new health-based WHO guidelines in 2021. Ireland and Europe should move towards achieving the health-based WHO air quality guidelines.
The two most significant pollutants in Ireland are Particulate matter and Nitrogen dioxide.
1. Particulate matter (PM)
What is Particulate matter? Particulate matter (PM) are very small particles which can be solid or liquid. The EPA monitors PM10 and PM2.5.
Where does it come from? Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Ireland mainly comes from the burning of solid fuel, such as coal, peat, and wood to heat our homes.
How will it impact my health? PM2.5 is the more important pollutant as it causes most health issues. These small particles can penetrate the lungs and cause damage. Chronic exposure can also contribute to stroke and heart disease.
When is it at its worst? PM levels, in our towns and villages, are at their worst during the winter because of emissions from fires and stoves, with increased burning of solid fuels.
2. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
What is Nitrogen dioxide? Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an air pollutant gas.
Where does it come from? The main source of NO2 in our towns and cities is from traffic (petrol and diesel engines).
How will it impact my health? NO2 can affect our lungs and breathing.
When is it at its worst? The highest concentration of NO2 occurs in our cities, where traffic is heaviest.
Source – Environmental Protection Agency