Irish EPA Publishes Air Quality Annual Report to Coincide with World Lung Day 2020
Today, September 25th, marks World Lung Day 2020 and it is a fitting time for Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish its annual Air Quality Report for 2019. The report may be downloaded at www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/quality/epaairqualityreport2019.html. The team at Sonitus Systems are particularly proud to have played a role in supporting the EPA with this critical work through the provision of our Sonitus Cloud reporting platform to power a new national air quality website.
Most of the mainstream media in Ireland covered the findings of this report, with different publications opting to highlight different aspects of the data. For instance, RTÉ ran with the headline "Dublin traffic and town fires highlighted in air quality report." You can read the RTE article in full here: www.rte.ie/news/environment/2020/0925/1167399-epa-report/
Taking a somewhat different approach, TheJournal.ie focused on some concerning statistics, as follows: "Poor air quality is prematurely killing over 1,300 in Ireland each year". Their handling of the report is available here: www.thejournal.ie/air-quality-report-5213700-Sep2020/.
While this important and timely report is well worth reading in full, below is a brief snapshot of the key findings:
While air quality in Ireland is generally good and compares favourably with many of our European neighbours, according to The Irish Times, "there are worrying localised issues" arising from burning solid fuel to heat buildings and traffic in large urban areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest source of air pollution in Ireland is the burning of solid fuel in private homes around the country. The burning of solid fuel has been linked to an estimated 1,300 premature deaths per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report. Significantly, the report points out that any movement towards cleaner modes of home heating fuels will have a subsequent improvement on air quality. Of course, the ill health effects of poor air quality are well documented by the World Health Organisation and regularly commented upon by the Sonitus Systems team through our News pages.
This latest EPA report reveals that traffic-related nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution is increasing in urban areas, with the EU limit value for this pollutant exceeded at one Dublin traffic monitoring location; St John's Road West. The report forewarns these types of exceedances will continue unless we curb our reliance on fossil fuel powered transport.
Following trends seen around the planet, initial studies of the impact of the coronavirus restrictions in March to May of 2020, indicate levels of NO2 dropped dramatically, especially in urban areas, however, levels of particulate matter did not decrease similarly, according to the EPA.
Dr. Ciara McMahon, Director of the EPA's Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said, "Ireland is renowned for its countryside and clean fresh air, but we can no longer take this for granted. Poor air quality impacts people's health and quality of life, 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 in our cities, towns and villages. The choices we make affect the levels of pollution in the air we breathe, which in turn affects the health of our lungs, heart and other organs. We need to decarbonise our public transport system and in general reduce our reliance on diesel and petrol-powered vehicles. Moving to cleaner ways of heating our homes will also significantly improve air quality across Ireland."
Due to continuing negative impacts of air pollutants on people's health and emission impacts at a local level, the EPA expanded monitoring under the national ambient air quality monitoring programme, with 24 more stations installed in 2019, bringing the total to 84.
The EPA air quality index for health and real-time results are available at: airquality.ie
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