Cork air-pollution monitor to take most detailed measurements yet

A new facility in Cork is set to take the most detailed measurements yet of air pollution, which scientists say is responsible for more than 1,500 premature deaths in Ireland every year.

Professors Andy Ruth and John Sodeau at the €66,000 atmospheric monitoring station at UCC's North Mall campus. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The opening of the €66,000 atmospheric monitoring station at UCC’s North Mall campus comes just weeks after tests found one location in Cork city centre had air-pollution levels as high as London on the same day.

The city council and Cork Institute of Technology take a small number of air-quality measurements but this new facility is now the most advanced and best equipped in the region.

It is the only facility in the city to provide continuous and real-time measurements of the three key air pollutants: Nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and the harmful particles, PM2.5. It also monitors other very fine dust particles that have many serious health effects.

The facility will gather weather data from its mast-mounted, solar power-driven, automated weather monitoring system with a temperature and relative humidity probe, a rain (precipitation) gauge, and a barometer to monitor atmospheric pressure. The weather data will be fed into the Met Éireann network every day and the equipment will also send automated ground-frost warnings to UCC’s Buildings and Estate Office.

The air-quality data will feed into international atmospheric observation networks and the recently expanded National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which aims to improve the country’s air quality information in real-time.

The atmospheric monitoring station has been developed by UCC’s Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry in partnership with the Environmental Research Institute at UCC. It will be run in partnership with the EPA and Met Éireann.

John Sodeau, founding director of the centre, said human health and wellbeing depends upon the health of the atmosphere.

Unless we monitor air pollutants accurately and in real time we simply cannot diagnose the extent to which life-changing effects like heart failure, stroke, and cancer will occur,” said Prof Sodeau. “This is as true for Cork as it is for the rest of the world.

Centre co-director Andy Ruth, of UCC’s Physics Department, said opening the station is a good example of how synergies in the environmental area can result in strong national partnerships between regulating authorities such as the EPA and third-level institutions.

Prof Sodeau’s air pollution tests in Cork City during the St Patrick’s St afternoon car ban last month found concentrations of PM2.5 at Daunt Square, as high as London on the same day.


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