A new 'Clean Air Zone' (CAZ) has been declared in Cork city centre, in the first such designation for a city in Ireland.
As part of the initiative, five air monitors will be placed on the east and west ends of Oliver Plunkett Street, on Grand Parade, on St Patrick's Street and on South Mall at the beginning of June.
The monitors will measure nitrogen oxides (NOx) - most most often created by petrol and diesel-burning vehicle engines - ozone, and the levels of other particulate matter in the city's air.
CAZs are areas where targeted action is taken to improve overall air quality through reduction in pollutants.
It is hoped the CAZ will serve as a springboard for further measures to address air pollution in the city going forward.
“Clean Air Zones address numerous types of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter," said project leader and executive scientist with Cork City Council, Dr Kevin Ryan.
For the initiative, Cork City Council has partnered with Cork Health Cities, the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry, UCC's School of Applied Psychology, Cork Chamber of Commerce and the Cork Business Association.
Oliver Plunkett Street was chosen for the study due to its successful transformation from a non-pedestrianised street to a pedestrianised one over a decade ago.
‘‘This Clean Air Zone is another step in making Cork a healthier, more sustainable city," said Mayor Colm Kelleher.
"Our vision for Cork’s Clean Air Zone is that it will improve the urban environment to support public health and the local economy, making Cork a more attractive place to live, work, and spend leisure time."
Air pollution is estimated to cause in the region of 1,300 premature deaths every year in Ireland. Long term exposure to it is also a factor in a wide range of illnesses and health difficulties.
Two recent research papers from UCC and Cork City Council suggested there is a degree concern about air pollution in Cork city among those in and around it.
The studies, published in 2020 and 2021, also highlighted somewhat limited awareness of the sources of air pollution and the ways in which the issue can be addressed.
“If we want to achieve low emissions and a healthy environment, it is crucial that we raise people’s awareness of the importance of good air quality and that we engage with the public to enable positive behavioural change, said Dr Marica Cassarino of UCC's School of Applied Psychology.
"Cork’s Clean Air Zone will stimulate our community to think about the solutions needed to promote air quality for the health of people and the environment," she said.