Emissions from transport and the burning of solid fuel are Ireland’s top sources of air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found.
The EPA’s Annual Air Quality Report indicates that Ireland’s air quality has an adverse influence on people’s health with high levels of particulate matter a key concern.
Particulate matter pollution is believed to be the deadliest form of air pollution due to its ability to penetrate the lungs and filter into our bloodstream.
A new index from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago released this month describes air pollution as a more significant threat to human lives than smoking and even war.
While Ireland’s ambient air quality does exceed EU legal limits, transport-related emissions of nitrogen dioxide in urban areas are close to the limit while “consistently” exceeding the more strict World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, the report states.
The EPA said that air pollution from the burning of solid fuels reaches its peak during winter months as people burn coal, wood and peat briquettes.
“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,” EPA Director General Laura Burke said.
Speaking at a National Air Event in Co Kilkenny last week, Francois Wakenhut of the European Commission’s Clean Air Unit outlined the health impacts of air pollution in Ireland.
“There is an increasing awareness of the urgencies of air quality, people demand from the Government that we do more to deliver clean air,” he said.
“The European Environment Agency has estimated 1,150 premature deaths in Ireland are directly attributed to poor air quality that is too many for Ireland and demands action.”
According to a report by the European Court Auditors (ECA), air pollution is the number one cause of premature death in Europe, contributing to 400,000 premature deaths annually.
Patrick Kenny, EPA’s Air Quality Manager outlined the importance of individual choices in improving the country’s air quality.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he continued.