Updated Oct 3, 2022

EPA urges Ireland to move towards achieving health-based WHO air quality guidelines

On 20 September 2022 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its annual air quality report which shows that, while air quality in Ireland is generally good, there are concerning localised issues which lead to poor air quality.

While Ireland met EU legal air quality limits in 2021, it did not meet the health-based World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines for a number of pollutants including:

  • particulate matter (PM);
  • nitrogen dioxide (No2);
  • sulphur dioxide (SO2); and
  • ozone (O3);

due to the burning of solid fuel in towns and villages, and traffics in cities.

Poor air quality has a negative impact on people's health and there are an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to particulate matter in our air.

Air monitoring results in 2021 from EPA stations across Ireland show that fine particulate matter (PM2.5), mainly from burning solid fuel in our homes, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), mainly from road traffic, remain the main threats to good air quality.

Dr Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA's Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said: "The EPA’s air quality monitoring carried out in 2021 has shown that Ireland met all of its EU legal requirements in 2021. However, we would not have met the new WHO air quality guidelines for health. Meeting the new WHO guidelines for air quality will be a major challenge for the country, however the report identifies a number of solutions to move towards these guideline levels".

The report states that:

  • Ireland and Europe should move towards achieving the health-based WHO air quality guidelines;
  • the planned National Clean Air Strategy for Ireland needs to be published and fully implemented;
  • Local Authorities must provide more resources to increase air enforcement activities;
  • national investment in clean public transport is needed across the country.

Pat Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said: "Air quality in Ireland is generally good, however, there are localised issues that are impacting negatively on air quality and our health. In our towns and villages monitoring identifies high levels of particulate matter associated with burning solid fuels and in our larger cities high levels of nitrogen dioxide is associated with road traffic. There are options and solutions to help improve the air we breathe. Changes we make to how we heat our homes and finding alternative ways to travel can immediately impact our local air quality".

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