Irish air quality met EU requirements in 2022 but not WHO guidelines
Irish air quality met EU requirements, but not WHO guidelines, a new report has noted.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual air quality report Air Quality in Ireland 2022, finds that air quality in Ireland is “generally good and compares favourably with many of our European neighbours”.
But it notes “concerning localised issues which lead to poor air quality”.
Ireland met EU legal air quality limits in 2022, however it did not meet the more stringent health-based World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines for a number of pollutants.
These include: particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (N02), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone (O3) due mainly to the burning of solid fuel in towns and traffic.
The report detailed that poor air quality has a proven negative effect on people’s health, with an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to particulate matter in the air.
It also includes 2022 air monitoring results from EPA stations across Ireland, which show that fine particulate matter (PM2.5), mainly from burning solid fuel in homes, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) mainly from road traffic, remain the main threats to good air quality.
High levels of these pollutants are often associated with cold, still weather from late autumn through to early spring, when generally short-term incidents of poor air quality occur.
The report identifies that using less solid fuel and cleaner fuels to heat homes – and reducing our use of cars to go to school, work and play – are actions that will contribute towards achieving the WHO guidelines.
It further identifies the critical role for local authorities in enforcement, implementation of existing plans and investment in infrastructure to encourage cleaner and healthier air quality choices.
The report calls on Dublin’s local authorities to fully implement the Dublin Region Air Quality Plan 2021 to improve Nitrogen Dioxide levels in the region of the capital.
It also calls for investment in clean public transport infrastructure across the country to be maintained and increased, and more safe footpaths and cycle lanes to increase active travel.
Dr Micheal Lehane, director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection and Environmental Monitoring, said there is an immediate challenge to work towards meeting WHO air quality guidelines.
“The EPA’s air quality monitoring has shown that Ireland met all of its EU legal requirements in 2022,” he said.
“However, we did not meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines for health. This highlights the immediate challenge to move towards the WHO air quality guidelines in the Clean Air Strategy.
“While undoubtably challenging, the significantly positive impacts of clean air on health are clear and the report identifies some of the actions that are necessary to achieve the health-based air quality guidelines.”
Pat Byrne, EPA programme manager, added: “The localised issues that we see in the 2022 monitoring results impact negatively on air quality and health.
“Monitoring stations across Ireland recorded high levels of particulate matter associated with burning solid fuels in our towns and villages and high levels of nitrogen dioxide in our larger cities associated with road traffic.
“We can have immediate impacts on our local air quality by making changes in how we heat our homes and finding alternative ways to travel. These actions which also have positive climate impacts.”