Air Quality in Ireland is Generally Good

The EPA report ‘Air Quality in Ireland 2009 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality’ shows that air quality in Ireland was generally good throughout the country. The report provides an overview of air quality in Ireland for 2009, based on data obtained from 28 monitoring stations.

Data from the EPA monitoring program shows that air quality in Ireland continues to be well above the European average, especially in relation to ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Air quality in Ireland is generally of a high standard across the country due to prevailing Atlantic airflows, relatively few large cities and the lack of widespread heavy industries. However, levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide remain of concern.

“Air quality across Ireland is generally good. However increased levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter observed at Dublin and Cork city centres show the need to reduce the environmental impact of traffic. Vehicle emissions technology has undoubtedly decreased the impact of individual vehicles, but any benefits have been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles,” comments Dr Micheal Lehane, EPA programme manager.

Traffic is the primary source of nitrogen dioxide and is also one of the main sources of particulate matter. Levels of nitrogen dioxide are high in Dublin and Cork city centres and, in 2009, exceeded the 2010 limit value at Winetavern Street monitoring station in Dublin city centre. The four Dublin local authorities are preparing a plan to address the 2009 exceedance of the limit value. Provisional data indicates that levels of nitrogen dioxide measured to 30th September in 2010 are below the limit value.

Domestic solid fuel use is the other main source of particulate matter in air in Ireland and particularly impacts air quality in areas where the sale of bituminous coal is permitted. As a result, levels of particulate matter in smaller towns are similar or worse than those in cities.

Dr Lehane continues: “The EPA asks the public to consider the impact that their choice of domestic heating fuel can have on the environment and air quality. An extension of the ban on the sale of bituminous coal to other areas would also further improve air quality.”

Measured values of sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), heavy metals, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were all below limit and target values set out in the Clean Air For Europe Directive 2008 and 4th Daughter Directive.

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