More air quality monitoring stations are to be rolled out around county Cork and talks are to be held between the county council and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about significantly increasing their number.
The move comes after councillors expressed concerns about the lack of information they had on air quality in the region and more importantly about a recent deterioration noted at a monitoring station in Cobh.
Cllr Liam Quaide said he was worried by a recent report from Professor John Sodeau of the UCC chemistry department on a spike in air pollution levels in Cobh. It came following the resumption of the new school term.
Prof Sodeau said children are particularly vulnerable when the car engines are running at the kerb outside schools because they are not very tall and get the full force of the exhaust pollution in their faces.
He said an asthmatic child is particularly at risk of developing respiratory problems, diabetes and heart problems in the future because of this.
Cllr Quaide said there is a major lack of fixed and mobile air monitoring stations throughout the county.
A Particulate Matter (PM) monitor, the first of its type in the county, went live in Carrignafoy, Cobh late last year.
Councillors were informed that their Environment Directorate is currently working with the EPA to install further monitoring equipment at a harbourside location in Cobh.
It is also planned to place a monitor in Macroom and another one in Mallow.
Ted O'Leary, director of services for the council's Environment & Emergency Services department, said site selection work is well advanced in both towns and the EPA hope to have the equipment installed and operational before the end of this year.
"We need an extensive network of air quality monitoring stations in areas of recurring congestion such as the main streets of our towns and villages, and other traffic blackspots," Cllr Quaide said.
"Despite the fact that air pollution kills many more people per year than road accidents, the problem has largely been ignored by our government," Cllr Quaide said.
"By inviting in EPA officials we can advocate for the development of proper monitoring all over Cork County, greater accessibility of this information and from there we can develop a mitigation programme," he added.
Cllr Noel Collins seconded the motion, pointing out that he had recently attended a health conference at which experts estimate 8.8m deaths worldwide every year are due to air pollution.
"We need way more stations rolled out. If we're not monitoring the air quality we don't know what we're dealing with," Cllr Seamus McGrath said.
Council officials said they would arrange a meeting with the EPA and representatives from the council's the Environment, Climate Action & Biodiversity Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), under whose remit the development of corporate clean air policy falls.
The PM monitor went live in Carrignafoy, Cobh late last year and its data is available in realtime on the EPA’s air quality webpages.