Irelandâ€™s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to â€˜greatly expandâ€™ its national air quality monitoring programme to provide greater information to the public over levels of air pollution.
Details on the planned implementation of the EPAâ€™s Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP) were outlined as it was revealed that burning of solid fuel has been identified as the â€˜biggest threatâ€™ to air quality in Ireland, ahead of vehicle emissions.
Yesterday (6 November) EPA published both its National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme 2017-2022 outlining future plans for monitoring pollution, as well as its latest air quality report, Air Quality in Ireland 2016 â€“ Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality.
The report indicates that Ireland did not exceed any legal EU limit values in 2016 for ambient air quality monitored at any of the countryâ€™s air quality network monitoring stations.
However, Particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide levels were above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values at a number of monitoring stations.
According to EPA, the level of particulate matter is of growing concern, especially during the winter months when peopleâ€™s fuel choices can directly impact on air quality and health, particularly in small towns and villages.
In recognition of these challenges, the EPA has launched its new national ambient air quality monitoring programme, which it says will â€œsignificantlyâ€ increase the availability of localised real-time air quality information to enable the public to make informed decisions and better inform national and regional policymakers.
As part of the programme 38 new automatic monitoring stations will be installed across both rural and urban sites, building on the 59 stations currently in operation across the Republic.
Launching the new monitoring programme, Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA, said: â€œPoor air quality is a major public health issue with approximately 1,500 premature deaths in Ireland in 2014 directly attributable to air pollution, mainly due to cardiopulmonary and respiratory health impacts from particulate matter.
â€œIt has become increasingly clear that there are no safe level of pollutants and with this in mind, it is time to tackle the biggest issue impacting on air quality in Ireland â€“ emissions from solid fuels in our small towns around the country.
â€œWhile 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.Â The EPA again calls for movement towards the adoption of these stricter guidelines, especially for particulates and ozone, as legal and enforceable standards across Europe and in Ireland.â€