The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today launched its annual Air Quality report, on World Lung Day. The report shows that while air quality complied with the legal limits, the World Health Organization’s health-related guideline values were not met.
Air quality impacts people’s health and there are an estimated 1,180 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to air pollution. Levels of particulate matter – fine particles – in our air is of growing concern. Levels of this pollutant are particularly high during the winter months when people’s use of solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood impacts negatively on air quality, especially in small towns and villages. The EPA report notes that any movement along the spectrum of home heating choices and solid fuel choices towards cleaner modes will have a subsequent improvement on air quality. In urban areas, transport related emissions of nitrogen dioxide are increasing, and it looks probable that Ireland will exceed the EU annual legal limit value for nitrogen dioxide in the near future.
In launching the report, Air Quality in Ireland 2018, Dr Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said,
“We all expect that the air we breathe is clean, but we cannot take this for granted. Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, so it is now time to tackle the two key issues that impact negatively on air quality in Ireland – transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from burning of solid fuels. The choices we make affect the levels of pollution in the air we breathe. We need to decarbonise our public transport system and in general reduce our reliance on internal combustion vehicles. Moving to cleaner ways of heating our homes will also significantly improve air quality in our towns and cities.”
Dr Ciara McMahon, EPA Programme Manager, said,
“The EPA’s air quality monitoring has shown that, while Ireland’s air quality complied with the EU legal standards in 2018, the levels of fine particles in the air we breathe did not meet the World Health Organization’s guideline values. Our monitoring also showed that in urban areas, the impact of traffic-related nitrogen dioxide pollution is increasing. These pollutants have a negative impact on people’s health and that is why we are continuing to install more monitoring stations across the country under the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme. This programme has now more than doubled the number of real-time monitoring stations providing air quality data across Ireland since 2017.”
The EU has introduced and implemented a range of legal instruments to improve air quality, these standards are still not in line with the tighter WHO air quality guidelines. The EPA has previously called for movement towards the adoption of these stricter guidelines, as legal and enforceable standards across Europe and in Ireland.
The Air Quality in Ireland 2018 report is available on the EPA website. The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides the air quality index for health and real-time results online at www.airquality.epa.ie. Results are updated hourly on the website, and people can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality is good, fair or poor.