Nearly as many people will die as a result of air pollution this year as have died from COVID-19.
A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that there are 1,300 premature deaths attributed to air pollution in Ireland every year.
The annual Air Quality Report found that while Ireland’s air quality was generally good last year, nitrogen dioxide levels in Dublin were higher than the EU average.
Meanwhile, air pollutant levels breached World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines at 33 monitoring stations around the country.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, EPA Air Quality Manager Patrick Kenny said the figures are “really worrying.”
“The dominant problematic pollutant leading to those values being above the WHO limit was PM2.5 very fine dust in the air,” he said.
“We are talking about solid fuel. The dominant source of PM2.5 is domestic solid fuel burning. That very fine dust was the dominant source and cause of those 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland.”
He said the premature deaths figure is “very stark” but warned that there are also impacts on people’s quality of life.
“Today is World Lung Day and these pollutants […] they are leading to impacts on our respiratory systems and on our cardiovascular systems,” he said.
“There is recent health research in Ireland, within the least year, that shows that if you are in an area that is high in nitrogen dioxide and you are over 50, you are more likely to develop asthma.”
Mr Kenny said it is time for us all to reconsider the way we heat our homes and travel around the country.
He said any move along a home heating spectrum developed by the EPA will lead to better air quality outcomes.
“The most damaging is an open fire where you are burning a very smoky solid fuel,” he said.
“Where you are not only getting an impact on the ambient air outside your home, you are also getting an impact on the air inside your home.”
He said there are several different choices open to homeowners.
“If you can move towards having a stove and ideally an eco-stove, you are going to get a better heat output out of the stove for one but from an air quality perspective, you are going to have a more efficient burn of that fuel, which means you have less of those very fine dust particles,” he said.
“Ideally, if you can then, you should move further along the spectrum to gas heating, oil heating or ultimately to air-space electric heating systems
“But we do appreciate that can’t be done overnight; it is not easy and, equally, the public needs to be supported in these actions.
“We are aware the Government is currently working on Ireland’s first national clean air strategy which we look forward to seeing in the forthcoming months.”
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