One of Europe's biggest suppliers of low-smoke fuels has called for an "immediate nationwide smoky coal ban", citing links between air pollution and worse Covid-19 health outcomes.
Industries pointed to a report from , which suggested that someone living in an area of high pollution is 15% more likely to die from -19.
The firm, which would benefit financially from any such ban, said it was "a matter of urgency" to protect health and to help in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Industries, which describes itself as the largest coal merchant and wholesaler in the UK and the largest producer of solid fuel briquettes in , said it also supported a phased and gradual rollout of a ban to commercial turf and wet wood.
Around 1,300 people in Ireland died prematurely last year because of air pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency ().
The EPA annual air quality report last month found that while the quality of the air in Ireland is generally good, some 33 monitoring stations across the country exceeded the World Health Organisation () guidelines for air pollution, mostly due to fossil fuels.
Climate ministerestablished 13 new low smoke zones in September, with all Irish towns with populations in excess of 10,000 seeing the banning of marketing, sale, and distribution of bituminous coal.
This will have a positive impact in terms of reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels in the areas selected, with consequent public health benefits for residents of these new zones, he said.
"The Department is taking the first step in this process by developing a public consultation document which recognises the need for a more comprehensive approach to the regulation of solid fuel generally, including other smoky fuels in addition to bituminous coal," he said.