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09.33 26 Mar 2020


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There have been significant drops in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in parts of Dublin as fewer people make their way around the city, according to air quality readings taken by Newstalk Breakfast.

That compares with similar readings taken with an air pollution sensor in January and February.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Newstalk Breakfast collected air pollution data from across the country was collected using the Plume Labs’ Flow Personal Air Pollution Sensor - a portable pollutant monitor that connects to your phone by Bluetooth and tracks the air quality of a given location using GPS.

Amid reports from China and Italy of significant decreases in NO2 - a toxic gas which mainly comes from combustion - during their COVID-19 partial lock downs, fresh readings were taken here this week.

The data coming out of some of the Dublin sites retested this week showed a more than 65% reduction, and even a 100% reduction of nitrogen dioxide emissions during comparable weekday hours in January. 

Reporter Sarah Madden, who conducted the study, told Newstalk Breakfast: "On Sandymount Strand, for example - where many people are now taking their daily exercise - the Plume air quality index rated the NO2 levels at zero in parts, down from 29 in January.

"It is worth noting that this is a small sampling, but it definitely is a notable reduction."

Traffic reduction

Separately, there has been major decreases in the number of cars on busy commuter routes in recent days as people stay at home.

On Friday 20th February, Transport Infrastructure Ireland recorded 168,000 vehicles on the M50.

Last Friday, that figure stood at just 114,000.

Sean O'Neill from TII says they expect a further drop when they get the figures from recent days.

He said: "We all have to abide by the requirements to not travel if we do not have to.

"Everyone needs to stay at home as required, so we'll see a significant drop-off in traffic in the coming week."

Conor Faughnan from the AA says they have never experienced anything like this before.

He said that while there's still activity on the road during the day, the congestion caused during peak commuting periods has now dropped off.

The National Transport Authority, meanwhile, has said the number of people using public transport has dropped by 75%.

Main image: File photo of Sandymount Strand. Picture by: RollingNews.ie

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