Warning of 'massive amounts' of pollution from Galway fire

Galway city was engulfed in smoke for several hours

Warning of 'massive amounts' of pollution from Galway fire

Image: NUIG

NUI Galway (NUIG) is warning that forest fires in the Cloosh Valley are causing a major air pollution episode in the area.

Emergency services are continuing to battle the blazing gorse fire.

NUIG says while there is the obvious devastating effect on wildlife and damage to tree crops, the fires are driving up air pollution for the region.

It says that while the wind has diverted the pollution plume away from the most populated areas in recent days, a change in wind direction on Thursday engulfed the city in smoke for several hours.

"The smoke pollution event was recorded on a newly deployed 'Citizen Science Air Pollution' monitoring network, which engages second-level school students as part of a national air-monitoring network", NUIG says in a statement.

"The data, which is webcast live every five minutes, clearly shows the smoke pollution peak hitting at least 20 times the normal level."

Source: NUIG

The measurement systems were built and deployed by the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies at NUIG, in a joint initiative with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Institute of Physics (IoP) and selected secondary schools.

The pilot network is made up of nodes in secondary schools in Galway, Claremorris, and two in Dublin (Lucan and Sutton).

The air pollution was also detected as far west as Carna.

Professor Colin O'Dowd, director of the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies at NUIG, said: "Our urban and even rural air quality, all across the country, has been getting worse rather than better over the years, particularly with the increase in biomass domestic fuel consumption associated with the proliferation of wood and peat burning stoves.

"In contrast to this low-cost Citizen Science network, we also have deployed a highly sophisticated air pollution network nationally, the most sophisticated in the world, which has identified that the burning of domestic fuels causes a disproportionate amount of air pollution for very little heat generation.

"We have found that it is not uncommon in winter for pollution levels to quite regularly rival the air pollution levels in the most polluted megacities around the world such as Beijing."

The European Environment Agency updated its assessment for the health impacts of air pollution in the EU, and now estimates that in 2013 there were over 500,000 premature deaths arising from air pollution in the EU overall.

It estimates that 1,500 of these occurred in Ireland.