Ireland should ban the burning of solid fuels such as coal and wood in homes to improve air quality and human health.
That’s according to Chemistry Professor John Sodeau following reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Ireland’s air quality is not good enough.
The WHO said Irish air is just below the standard of the organisation and one way to improve this is banning the burning of solid fuels in homes.
Prof Sodeau told The Hard Shoulder burning fires in homes “causes enormous damage”.
“All carbon containing solid fuels release particles, small particles that are toxic, that get into our lungs and our hearts,” he said.
“The fact is our hospitals get clogged up with more and more people because of air pollution.
“In Ireland, burn burning fires by burning wood, coal and peat is a problem.”
Prof Sodeau many people who can heat their homes using gas and oil “insist” on burning solid fuels in fireplaces as well.
“That is something that I believe can be banned virtually immediately, but we'll have to police it appropriately,” he said.
“We must look a lot more into district heating – this is fairly commonplace in some of the continent, and we should do that.
District heating is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralised location to homes and other properties.
“People need to decide whether or not they want to pass on illness to their families or to their neighbours,” Prof Sodeau said.
Irish Rural Link CEO Seamus Boland said banning fires in homes would affect homes in rural Ireland dependent on turf and other solid fuels.
“In rural areas I know, there’s huge dependence on [solid fuels],” he said.
“It would be in the minority, but if look at rural areas to the west of Ireland and in the midlands, you’re looking at a fair number of homes using one sort of fuel.
“They would be using the stove or the cooker to burn... they are the ones I would be worried about.”
“[Rural people] don’t have that choice.
“We have a long way to go before we can ban them.”
'A just transition'
Prof Sodeau said research shows “less than 5%” of homes in Ireland solely dependent on solid fuel heating.
He said “of course” there should be an exception for those homes dependent on wood, peat and coal.
“It has to be a just transition,” he said.
“The target I had is much more on urban homes who have [gas and oil] but have to have the trendy woodstoves.”
Mr Boland then agreed a ban on solid fuels would improve air quality – but it must be accompanied by an increase in retrofitting homes with new heating.
“Otherwise, we're going to be behind this forever,” he said.
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