WHO air-pollution limits regularly exceeded in Cork City, Macroom, Tralee, other towns

WHO air-pollution limits regularly exceeded in Cork City, Macroom, Tralee, other towns

Air pollution is believed to be the cause of over 1,200 deaths per year in Ireland. File Picture: AP Photo/J. David Ake

WHO air-pollution limits are being consistently exceeded in Cork City, Macroom, Tralee, and in other towns and cities across Ireland.

That’s according to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report shows that the highest pollution levels were recorded in Dublin, with quantities last weekend reaching 15 times higher than EU and WHO guidelines, and the burning of solid fuels being a major contributor.

However, high readings were also recorded in Cork City, Macroom, Tralee, Ennis, and Enniscorthy within the last week.

Air pollution is believed to be the cause of 1,200 deaths per year in Ireland, and the EPA's air-quality report goes into detail on the implications of the presence of fine particulate matter (PM) in the air we breathe.

PM is material that, when inhaled, can have a significant adverse effect on our health. It has long been associated with respiratory illnesses, strokes, and heart disease.

According to the EPA, PM2.5 is the measurement of pollution produced from the burning of solid fuels. 

Another measure, PM10, is associated with air pollution caused by traffic.

Under WHO guidelines, PM2.5 should not be higher than 10 micrograms per cubic metre, or 25 micrograms per 23-hour average.

These amounts were exceeded consistently in locations around the country last week, with certain areas of Dublin climbing as high as 400 micrograms — the highest-recorded measure in over three decades.

John Wenger, of University College Cork's Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry, is one of those monitoring EPA data.

Speaking to Newstalk this morning, Professor Wenger said the issue was "not just a Dublin problem". 

He said: "We see this in many small towns across the country.

"Exposure to air pollution affects the heart, the lungs, and we know, now, that it also affects the brain: It has been linked with increased incidences of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease 

"It affects the whole body, because the particles that are generated during the burning of solid fuels can enter the body and move around the body and target certain organs."

Prof Wenger said combatting the issue would require "a balance between personal responsibility and government action". 

He said: "We can make our own decisions about doing these things. We know we shouldn't burn solid fuels, but it's the attractiveness of having the fire, the warmth of the fire.

"But, at the same time, the Government need to know that air pollution affects health and needs to act on this,” he added.

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