EPA: Irish air quality among best in Europe

THE quality of our air is among the best in Europe, according to latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The environmental watchdog say this superior air quality is due to prevailing Atlantic airflows, relatively few large cities, and the lack of widespread heavy industries.

Due to traffic levels, there is some concern around levels of nitrogen dioxide and the amount of particulate matter in Dublin and Cork city centres — pollution at one site at Winetavern Street in Dublin exceeded acceptable 2010 nitrogen dioxide limits.

However, elsewhere in the country, we are beating air quality targets set by the European Union (EU), particularly in relation to ozone emissions and nitrogen dioxide.

In some smaller towns, due to the use of traditional coal rather than smokeless fuels, particulate matter is elevated. The EPA has said an extension of the ban on the sale of bituminous coal to other areas would improve this.

Dr Micheál Lehane, EPA programme manager, said: “The EPA asks the public to consider the impact that their choice of domestic heating fuel can have on the environment and air quality.”

While stating that, in general, air quality is good in this country, he said traffic levels in Dublin and Cork must be reduced.

“Increased levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter observed at Dublin and Cork city centres show the need to reduce the environmental impact of traffic. Vehicle emissions technology has undoubtedly decreased the impact of individual vehicles, but any benefits have been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles.

“Traffic is the primary source of nitrogen dioxide and is also one of the main sources of particulate matter. Levels of nitrogen dioxide are high in Dublin and Cork city centres. The four Dublin local authorities are preparing a plan to address how nitrogen dioxide limits were last year exceeded at Dublin’s Winetavern Street. Provisional data indicates that levels of nitrogen dioxide this year are below the limit value.”

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