Poor air quality has remained stubbornly high in Cork over the past week, official data has shown — with most of the city's immediate suburbs enduring high levels of pollutants.
According to real-time data taken from the air quality sensor network PurpleAir, air quality around the suburbs of the northside and southside of the city over the past seven days has been "poor".
The air quality was worst around sensors placed in Montenotte, Mayfield, Knocknaheeny, and Hollyhill on Cork's northside, as well as Ballinlough, Ballyphehane, The Lough, and Tramore Valley Park on the southside.
By contrast, Ringaskiddy, Cobh, Passage and Monkstown had the best air quality over the past week, PurpleAir monitors showed.
The burning of solid fuels such as coal, peat, and wood is the biggest culprit when it comes to poor air quality, according to experts.
Every three hours, the Cork Air Quality Twitter account posts automated readings of real-time data taken from the air quality sensor network PurpleAir.
It showed the city fluctuated from fair to poor over the past few days, with only brief spells when the data showed air quality to be good.
The account advises that when the air is moderate to "enjoy your usual outdoor activities", but that "sensitive groups should consider reducing intense outdoor activities". When air quality is very poor, the account advises restricting intense activity outside.
Cork City Council and the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (Crac) based at UCC set up the PurpleAir sensor network as a pilot project across the city to monitor particulate matter in the atmosphere in recent years.
Particulate matter is the combination of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), before the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, Ireland was above World Health Organization air quality guidelines at 33 monitoring sites across the country.
That was mostly due to the burning of solid fuel in cities, towns, and villages, the agency said.
Particulate matter from the burning of solid fuel is estimated to cause 1,300 premature deaths per year, it added.
Cork City Council announced last week that it is putting its Draft Air Quality Strategy to 2026 out for public feedback.