Air pollution contributes to 1,180 premature deaths in Ireland every year, according to the Irish government.
The figures come from Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who has published its annual air quality report, which says the country still has a way to go before it meets World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline levels.
The report blames high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from domestic wood-burning and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from transport.
As winter approaches the report says they expect levels of PM2.5 to increase as the burning of coal, peat and wood are still popular methods of heating in rural areas.
The report compares the towns of Bray, which has a ban on the sale and use of bituminous coal and regularly falls under WHO PM2.5 guidelines, and Longford, which doesn’t and has been over WHO guidelines for nearly all of the past five years.
Regarding transport emissions, the report says it’s ‘probable’ that the country will exceed the EU annual legal limit value for nitrogen dioxide this year.
Ireland was above WHO air quality guideline levels at a number of monitoring sites for PM2.5, ozone and NO2.
Dr Micheál Lehane, director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said: ‘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.’
Read the report here.
In July, an EPA report revealed high levels of NO2 at several locations in Dublin which could force authorities to implement a UK-style Clean Air Zone.
The authors of the report say the results are an ‘early warning’ and ‘signal the need for strong, co-ordinated action by all the relevant authorities to improve air quality in Dublin.’