Traffic exhaust and open fires cause widespread air quality violations

DIRTY air from traffic and open fires pose health hazards in communities across the country.

Test reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show violations of World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines at most of the country’s monitoring stations.

The main problem is fine dust particles from the combustion of solid fuels. WHO guidelines were violated at 65 of the 87 monitoring stations.

Nitrogen dioxide from the exhaust of petrol and diesel vehicles violated guidelines at 23 of the 30 stations where levels were monitored.

Sulfur dioxide, released when fossil fuels are burned, and ozone, a mixture of several pollutants, also exceeded WHO limits in places.

Samples from all stations met mandatory EU air quality requirements, but the EPA says those standards are too low to reveal the true level of pollution people breathe.

It says Ireland should aim to meet the higher WHO guidelines but warns it will be a “major challenge”.

Air pollution is a major health threat, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.

It is estimated that there are around 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland each year due to poor air quality, particularly particulate matter pollution.

Pat Byrne, EPA program manager, said air quality in Ireland is generally good but not good enough.

“There are localized issues that negatively impact air quality and our health,” he said.

“In our towns and villages, monitoring is finding high levels of particulate matter associated with burning solid fuels, and in our larger cities, high levels of nitrogen dioxide are associated with road traffic.”

However, he said there are opportunities to improve air quality immediately.

“Changes we make to how we heat our homes and find alternative travel options can have a direct impact on our local air quality.”

In the damage hierarchy, the EPA says that burning peat, charcoal, or green or wet wood in an open fire causes the worst home heating pollution.

Next, less smoking fuels such as peat briquettes are burned in an open fire, followed by the use of smokeless charcoal or dry wood in a stove.

Next comes oil heating, followed by gas heating.

New regulations further restricting the use of smoky fuels come into effect next month, and the EPA says local authorities need to put more resources into enforcement to ensure they’re met.

It also calls for greater national investment in clean public transport and says measures to tackle fuel poverty should also improve air quality.

Currently, the fuel allowance paid to low-income households can be used to purchase any type of fuel and does not support people in choosing the cleanest options. Traffic exhaust and open fires cause widespread air quality violations

Fry Electronics Team

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