Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

11.09 1 Dec 2020


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People are being exposed to dangerous levels of pollution due to the burning of solid fuels, according to a scientist.

It comes as data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows air pollution in Dublin at the weekend was at levels not seen in three decades.

Pollution levels in Rathmines and Ringsend were up to 15 times higher than EU and World Health Organisation guidelines on Saturday night last.

High readings were also recorded in Ennis, Co Clare; Tralee, Co Kerry, Macroom and Cork city; and Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

The EPA says this type of pollution is associated with the burning of solid fuels, with air pollution causing the death of 1,200 people every year in Ireland.

Professor John Wenger, from the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at UCC which studies the data, said there were a number of factors which led to the smoky conditions in Dublin on Saturday.

These include a combination of weather and people lighting fires.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: "We performed research in small towns and in Dublin and Cork previously on air pollution and we tracked these numbers regularly throughout the wintertime because wintertime is a time for pollution, people are burning solid fuel fires.

"Typically, now, for example, I'm tracking air pollution in a few Dublin sites this week, there wasn't a lot of pollution but then on Saturday night it really peaked at around 400 micrograms per metre cubed.

"This is about 20 times higher than the daily average recommended by the EU, it really is quite a high measurement."

In real terms, such high levels can adversely impact on people's health, particularly affecting their organs.

He continued: "This means it is bad for your health, what we know is that exposure to air pollution affects the heart, the lungs, and we know now that also affects the brain, it has been linked with increased incidences of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease, for example.

"It affects the whole body because the particles that are generated during the burning of solid fuels can enter the body and move around the body and target certain organs.

"So we know that exposure to air pollution leads to 1,200 premature deaths every year in Ireland.

"It's not a Dublin problem, it's not a big city problem, we see this in many small towns across the country."

Professor Wenger added that we need to think twice about lighting fires using solid fuels.

He said: "It's a balance between personal responsibility but also Government action here.

"We can make our own decisions about doing these things, we know we shouldn't burn solid fuels but it's the attractiveness of having the fire, the warmth of the fire.

"But at the same time, the Government need to know that air pollution affects health and needs to act on this."

Air pollution in Dublin reached worst level in over 30 years last week

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Newstalk Breakfast

    

Main image: The sun casts long shadows on Sandymount Strand in Dublin as a walker passes by the Poolbeg chimney stacks and the Covanta waste burning plant in the background. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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