Officials should do everything they can to reduce the number of vehicles on Irish roads, an expert in air pollution has said.
Air quality in the Republic of Ireland ranks highly in comparison to other EU member states - but there are still an estimated 1,700 deaths every year that are linked back to air pollution.
A recently published study of Dublin has pinpointed a number of hotspots - most of which are close to busy roads.
Physical and Environmental Chemistry Professor John Wenger described the findings as ‘not surprising’ and said there is only one solution.
“We have to get rid of the vehicles, we have to make a change,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.
“It’s not just about air quality, it’s also about climate and we do have to make the switch from car journeys and vehicles to more sustainable forms of transport.
“This is a combination of cycling, e-biking and better public transport too.
“I do note that Dublin Bus is looking at rolling out a large number of electric vehicles… That would be a welcome start.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan's decision to expand his city's ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) - in which drivers who use the most polluting vehicles are charged a daily fee - is credited by the British Conservative Party for its surprise win in a recent by-election in outer London.
The result suggested that, in Britain at least, while air pollution may not be popular, measures to tackle it can be even less so.
Despite this, Professor Wenger believes tackling air pollution is a “no brainer”.
“We do need to have good leadership from the City Councils but also Government at a national level as well,” he said.
“Take, for example, low emission zones; what they’ve done is a combination of the carrot and the stick approach.
“They had to provide incentives, for example, there are scrappage deals to remove older vehicles from the road - the most polluting vehicles.
“They’re also providing free public transport for those that are not so well off.
“So, you can do it. There are ways to do it. You just need good political leadership here.”
Strokes, asthma, heart attacks and dementia
Consultant geriatrician Dr Colm Byrne confirmed that even if air pollution does not kill someone, it can still seriously impact their health.
“Research conducted in RSCI demonstrated that within 72 hours of a spike in air pollution that there was an increase in stroke admissions across Dublin,” he said.
“Other researchers have found similar links with asthma and heart attacks… Irish researchers also found an increase in the rate of dementia in people who have open fires in their homes.”
Last year, the Government controversially banned the commercial sale of turf - which Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said was having a negative impact on air quality in rural areas.
Main image: Exhaust fumes from the engine of a car. Picture by: Alamy.com