About Air Pollution

Why is air quality important?

Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 400,000 premature deaths are attributable to poor air quality in Europe annually. In Ireland, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution is estimated at 1,180 people (Air Quality in Europe 2019, EEA) and is mainly due to cardiovascular disease. The WHO has described air pollution as the ‘single biggest environmental health risk’.

What are the main pollutants of concern to the environment and human health?

The ambient air quality pollutants of most concern on an EU-wide level are Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM), Ozone (O3) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). They can impact on human health, ecosystems and vegetation and monitoring is carried out to determine their concentration levels.

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What is Particulate Matter and how does it get into the atmosphere?

PM are a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air. typically measured as PM10 and PM2.5 with diameters of 10μm (microns) or 2.5μm. PM is a common proxy indicator for air pollution.

It affects more people than any other pollutant. While particles  with a diameter of 10 microns or less, (≤ PM10) can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs, the even more health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, (≤ PM2.5). PM2.5  can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer.

The major components of PM are sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water. These particles can consist of direct emissions such as dust, emissions from combustion engines, from the burning of solid fuels or natural sources such as windblown salt, plant spores and pollens. These direct emissions are known as primary PM.

 

 

PM size versus human hair

PM can also be produced indirectly by formation of aerosols through reactions of other pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2); these are known as secondary PM. In Ireland, the main sources are solid fuel burning and vehicular traffic.

Air quality measurements are typically reported in terms of daily or annual mean concentrations of PM10 particles per cubic meter of air volume (m3). Routine air quality measurements typically describe such PM concentrations in terms of micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). Concentrations of fine particles (PM2.5 or smaller), are also reported.

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What is Nitrogen Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides?

Emissions from traffic are the main source of Nitrogen Oxides in Ireland, along with electricity generating stations and industry. Nitrogen Dioxide can affect the throat and lung. The main effects are emphysema and cellular damage.

It impacts visually as it has a brown colour and gives rise to a brown haze. Oxides of Nitrogen contribute to the formation of acid rain and ozone.

Levels in Ireland are moderate but are increasing due to growth in traffic numbers.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

The main source of Carbon Monoxide in Ireland is traffic. It is absorbed into the bloodstream more readily than oxygen, so the relatively small quantities in inhaled air can have harmful effects.

Prolonged exposure can cause tissue damage and individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease are particularly at risk. Levels in Ireland are low.

What is Sulphur Dioxide?

The main source of Sulphur Dioxide in Ireland is burning coal and oil to heat homes and industries and to produce electricity.

It is an irritant gas which attacks the throat and lungs. Prolonged exposure can lead to increases in respiratory illnesses like chronic bronchitis. It contributes to the formation of acid rain, which damages vegetation and buildings.

Levels in Ireland are low to moderate. Levels have decreased over recent years due to increased use of low-sulphur "smokeless" coal, increased use of natural gas instead of solid fuels and reduced industrial emissions through IPC licensing.

What is Ozone?

Ozone is a gas composed of three atoms of oxygen (O3). It is a natural component of the atmosphere. Most Ozone is found high up in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere between 12km and 50km above sea level. Stratospheric ozone is essential to life on earth as it protects us from harmful rays from the sun.

Ozone is also found in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere next to the earth. This ground-level Ozone is not emitted directly into the atmosphere and is a secondary pollutant produced by reaction between Nitrogen Dioxide, Hydrocarbons and sunlight. Ozone can be described as good, if found high in the atmosphere, or bad, when found at ground level.

The formation of ground level ozone (O3) is complex. It is formed from reactions between pollutants such as NOX, carbon monoxide and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone is also a transboundary pollutant - it originates in one country but is able to cause damage in another country's environment, by crossing borders. Its impacts mainly affect central and southern Europe during the summer months. Ozone levels over Ireland can be influenced by the transport of pollutants from other European regions and across the Atlantic from North America. High concentrations of ground level ozone can affect the functioning of the respiratory system and damage crops and other vegetation. Exposure to high concentrations of tropospheric ozone causes chest pains, nausea and coughing in humans.

Long term exposure to moderate concentrations causes a reduction in lung capacity and can worsen heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Tropospheric ozone contributes to the greenhouse effect and subsequent global climate change.

Levels of Ozone in Ireland are moderate.

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How does ground-level ozone form?

Tropospheric, or ground level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). This happens when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight.

Sunshine and heat help ozone to form, so ozone pollution is most likely to be a problem on warm, sunny days.

Another unusual thing about ozone is that it reacts with nitric oxide (NO) which is usually found in towns and cities near roads. As a result, ozone pollution is more of a problem in the countryside than in our cities.

What are Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons?

This encompasses a wide range of compounds that consist of two or more aromatic rings made entirely of Carbon and Hydrogen. Airborne PAHs, when inhaled, are believed to produce lung cancer.

Sources in Ireland are car emissions and the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and turf.

Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is the most common PAH in ambient air and is therefore used as a marker to set air quality and emission standards

What are the primary sources of air pollution in Ireland?

Particulate Matter from solid fuel burning remains the greatest threat to good air quality in Ireland. This is closely followed by Nitrogen Dioxide from transport emissions.

 

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Health Effects of Air Pollution

How Does Air Pollution Affect Us?

Most healthy people do not feel any different if the air quality is worse than usual for a short time. However, some people do find that air pollution affects their health and wellbeing.

When air pollution is higher than usual, people who already have heart or lung problems are more likely to become unwell and need treatment. They should take their doctor’s advice.

Older people are more likely to suffer from heart and lung problems than young people, so it makes good sense for them to be aware of the air quality.

Children (as long as they are well) usually need not stay away from school, or avoid taking part in games, because of air pollution. Children with asthma should make sure they have their usual medicines with them on days when levels of air pollution are higher than usual.

If air pollution reaches “very high” levels, even some healthy people may get a sore or dry throat, sore eyes or perhaps a tickly cough.

However, different people are affected in different ways. Some people are very sensitive to air pollution and find that even low levels of pollution affect their wellbeing. So, anyone who has asthma or any other health problem that may make them sensitive to pollution should take the advice of their doctor.

What do health studies show?

Most people think of respiratory illnesses as the effect on our health of air pollution. However, scientific studies have linked air pollution to a range of health outcomes, which vary according to the key stages of development of the human life-cycle.

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Should I worry about air pollution for my health?

Numerous research studies, replicated across the world agree that breathing air of poor quality impacts on people’s health.

Exposure to poor air quality is associated with both ill health and premature death.

People may be affected by poor air quality even if they never experience any noticeable pollution related health effects such as breathing problems.

Air pollution can cause short term (nearly immediate) symptoms and long term (chronic disease) effects.

What are the short term effects?

Short term health effects occur when weather conditions cause pollutant levels to build up above normal background conditions. On days when air quality deteriorates more people are admitted to hospital for lung and heart problems while increased numbers of people visit their GP and need to take more medicine.

Many people will not notice any ill effects, but those who are sensitive may feel a difference in their symptoms and well being.

Those with existing breathing problems such as asthma or COPD can be severely affected.

What are the long term effects?

It is now believed that the long term health effects of air pollution are larger than the short term or acute effects. These effects happen at lower pollution levels than the short term effects, and are often not noticed by people at the time the damage is being done.

Until the 1990s, longer term health studies focused mainly on respiratory health, since the lungs are the primary gateway for pollution to enter the human body. As further findings were made, researchers began to recognise that air pollution also affects the heart, meaning many more people are affected. This means that poor air quality is a much bigger public health challenge than previously thought.
More recently studies are investigating the possible link between poor air quality and outcomes such as low birth weight infants and neurologoical health.

What are the health implications of PM10 and PM2.5

Epidemiological studies show that the most severe health effects caused by air pollution are due to particulate matter, and to a lesser extent, to ozone. Inhalation of particulate matter causes irritation or damage to the pulmonary tissue. Particulate matter can cause both short and long-term health effects.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there is no safe threshold value below which no harmful effects occur. While particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, (≤ PM10) can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs, the even more health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, (≤ PM2.5). PM2.5 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer.

 

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Air Pollution in Ireland

What actions are being taken to improve air quality in Ireland?

The Department of Communications Climate Action and Energy (DCCAE) are currently developing a National Clean Air Strategy with the aim of promoting policies to enhance and protect the quality of the air we breathe. More information is available at the following link.

 

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/air-quality/national-clean-air-strategy/Pages/default.aspx

What is the best way to find out what the current air quality conditions are in my area?

There are several options to get information on air quality in Ireland.

  1. A list of air monitoring stations can be accessed at the following link: https://www.epa.ie/air/quality/data/.
  2. The air quality index for health is updated hourly and the data can be accessed at the following link: http://www.airquality.ie
  3. Ambient Air Monitoring Unit are active on twitter and regularly provide updates on air quality at the following link:  https://twitter.com/EPAAirQuality.
How does the map work?

The Map below is coloured based on current air quality index for health (AQIH) staus. It updates every two to five minutes with the most up-to-date calculated Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) for each station, which colours the station dot according to the air quality and health implications- from good to poor. Detailed information on the AQIH is available at Air Quality Index for Health.

If a station is blue it means that it is a non-automated station and data will only be available following laboratory analysis.

If a station displays no colour (grey) there may be an instrument or communication issue associated with it or it may be undergoing planned maintenance/upgrade.

As well as viewing the AQIH for the station closest to your home you can select to view the AQIH for your region on the map. The tab to turn on the region layer is on the top right hand side of the map.

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How are monitoring stations chosen?

Firstly we assess population exposure – the areas of the country that are more densely populated need to be monitored more – To help with this the country in broken down into zones- Zone A (Dublin), Zone B (Cork) , Zone C (large Towns) and Zone D (rural Ireland) – see FAQ “what are AQ Zones?”

The selection is also influenced by Geographical spread of monitoring.

Then comes the Macroscale requirements – what type of station is needed – traffic or background?

The location of the station is influenced mostly by being ‘representative of the exposure of the population to air pollution’ considerations in this regard include but are not limited to –

Proximity to sources

Predominant wind direction in the area.

Topography of the locality

Avoidance of measurement of micro-environments

Knowledge and experience of site assessment team

 

Then comes the Microscale requirements, Health and Safety issues, access to power, security issues, access etc

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What is the Local Monitoring Network?

The Local Monitoring Network neasures near real-time indicative results for particulate matter. The network is being setup as part of the National Ambient Air Monitoring Programme (AAMP) 2017 - 2022.

Currently particulate matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and 10 microns (PM10) are assessed at a number of loactions highlighted on the AQIH map as triangles. Click on links to access the latest available data. Monitors undergoing calibration/maintenance will have their links removed. Links will be restored once monitors have been re-installed.

What is The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP)

The 5‐year National Ambient Air Monitoring Programme was launched in November 2017. The main aims of AAMP are:

  • to greatly expanded national monitoring network with 38 new automatic monitoring stations, providing enhanced real-time information to the public.
  • Modelling and forecasting capability, to provide an ongoing air quality forecast to the public.
  • Encouraging greater understanding and involvement of the public in air quality issues utilising citizen engagement and citizen science initiatives.
Is there any air monitoring taking place at or near schools?

In 2019 a joint European citizen science project will be carried out between many of the European EPA's and the European Environment Agency (EEA).  This project, called the Globe Programme, will focus on the measurement of Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations in the air resulting from car use.  More information on the Globe Programme can be found here.

Is historical air quality data accessible to the public?

Yes. All historical air quality data is available to download from our SAFER database https://erc.epa.ie/safer.  A list of all our current and past sites can be viewed on the EPA website at https://www.epa.ie/air/quality/data/

I am concerned about the air quality in my home. How do I monitor air quality in my home?

The EPA only deal with outdoor ambient air.  There is currently no organisation with responsibility for indoor air quality in homes in Ireland. Private consultancy firms can provide air quality monitoring in homes.

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Air Quality Indices and Standards

What are the Air Quality legislation and guidance?

The World Health Organisation publishes Air Quality Guidelines based on certain pollutants health effects and are there to aid policy makers. The European Union developed their Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) Directives (Directives 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC) considering the WHO Guideline figures and the situation in Europe at the time. For some pollutants, they mirror each other exactly (NO2 & CO) whereas for others the WHO guidelines are tighter than EU regulation (SO2, O3 and PM)

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What are the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines-AQG’s?

Air quality guidelines (AQG’s) were published by the World Health Organisation in 1987 and revised in 1997. The current ones are based on revised 2005 guidelines of selected pollutants due to scientific evidence of the health effects and are applicable globally. The WHO AQG’s are designed to offer guidance to countries trying to reduce the health impacts of air pollution, and to help policy-makers set targets and standards for air quality in different parts of the world – they indicate the levels of pollution at which risk to health is minimal, no level of air pollution is safe.

The update selected ozone (reduced from 120 to 100μg/m3), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide (reduced from 125 to 20μg/m3) and significantly reduced PM standards (from 70 to 20 μg/m3), which WHO felt could reduce deaths in polluted cities by as much as 15% a year (WHO, 2016).

Is Ireland compliant with EU legislative limit values?

Yes. Ireland is currently compliant with EU legislative limits. No levels above the EU legislative limit values were recorded at any of the ambient air quality network monitoring sites in Ireland to date

What about World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guideline values?

The tighter World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guideline values were exceeded at a number of monitoring sites for particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone and NO2. In 2017(?):

    • the PM10 24hr guideline was exceeded at 11 monitoring sites;
    • the PM2.5 24hr guideline was exceeded at 9 monitoring sites and the annual guideline at 1 monitoring site;
    • the Ozone guideline was exceeded at 9 monitoring sites; and
    • the NO2 1hr guideline was exceeded at 1 monitoring site.
What are the EU Air Quality (AAQ) Directives?

European Union legislation sets air quality standards both for the short-term (hourly/daily) and long-term (annual) air quality levels: standards for long-term levels are necessarily stricter than for short-term levels, because serious health effects may occur from long-term exposure to such pollutants. Under EU law a limit value is legally binding, for a target value the obligation is to take all necessary measures not entailing disproportionate costs to ensure that it is attained, and so it is less strict than a limit value.

Directive 2008/50/EC introduced additional PM2.5 objectives. These objectives are set at national level and are based on the average exposure indicator (AEI). This is determined as a 3-year running annual mean PM2.5 concentration averaged over the selected monitoring stations in agglomerations and larger urban areas, set in urban background locations to best assess the PM2.5 exposure of the general population.

 

The regulations on air quality in Ireland are based on European Union CAFE regulations (Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe Directive 2008/50/EC) published in May 2008 and the fourth Daughter Directive (2004/107/EC)- collectively referred to as the AAQD. These were transposed into Irish Law by the Air Quality Standards Regulations (S.I. 180 of 2011) and the Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ambient Air Regulations (S.I. 58 of 2009). They rely on defined limits, over specified periods, for concentrations of certain pollutants. The ones relating to the AQIH are listed below:

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What is the Fitness Check of AAQ?

There is an ongoing (2018) fitness check of the two Ambient Air Quality Directives (AAQ) (Directives 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC) initiated by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment (assisted by consultants such as Milieu and Eunomia). They are being reviewed because they have been in force over 10 years now (Commission, 2011). The fitness check centres on five evaluation criteria; relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value (as outlined in the Better Regulation agenda). The findings of the fitness check will inform a review of the AAQ deciding if they are fit for purpose and continue to protect the citizens of the EU, and their environment, from harm.

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What is the Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH)?

The EPA’s Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) is a number from 1 to 10 that tells the public what the air quality currently is in their region, and whether this might affect the health of you or your child. A reading of 10 means the air quality is very poor and a reading of 1 to 3 inclusive means that the air quality is good. https://www.epa.ie/air/quality/

How do I use the Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH)?

Step 1: Read ‘What are the short-term effects of air pollution?’  to see if you or your child is likely to be at risk from air pollution. Your doctor may also be able to advise you.

Step 2: Figure out which Air monitoring station is nearest to you using the map, or which one best represents air quality where you are. Check the AQIH at that station if you think you are at risk, and are planning strenuous outdoor activity.

Step 3: Read the health advice messages for the current AQIH for your region.

 

The AQIH health advice messages are messages to help you and your family better manage your health. The table below gives health messages for individuals who are sensitive to air pollution (at risk) and for‌ the general population.

If you or child has heart or lung problems you are at greater risk of symptoms from air pollution. You need to follow your doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing your condition. If you are very sensitive, you may have health effects even on days when the air quality is good. Anyone experiencing symptoms should follow the guidance provided in the section on 'What can I do when there are increased levels of air pollution?'.

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How is the AQIH calculated?

The Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) has 10 points ranging from 1 to 10. These points are divided into four coloured bands – good (readings of 1-3), fair (readings of 4-6), poor (7-9) and very poor (10). The higher the number the worse the quality of the air.  For example, a AQIH reading of 10 means that the air quality is very poor and a reading of 1, 2 or 3 means that the air quality is good (see table below).

The AQIH is based on measurements of five air pollutants all of which can harm health. The five pollutants are: 

o    Ozone gas

o    Nitrogen dioxide gas

o    Sulphur dioxide gas

o    PM2.5 particles and

o    PM10 particles 

We use automatic air quality monitors to measure how much pollutant there is (we work this out per each cubic metre – m3) per hour.

The pollutants measured at each station vary. All five pollutants are not measured at each site. Most monitoring stations measure particulate matter as these present the greatest health risk. Nitrogen dioxide is monitored mainly in urban areas with significant exposure to vehicle emissions.

For each monitoring station, we work out the index number for each pollutant separately. The overall  AQIH is the highest available pollutant index. For example, if the ozone index figure is greater than sulphur dioxide, we give the higher ozone index as the overall AQIH. The table below shows the ranges of concentration (amounts) for each pollutant. Examples of how to calculate the AQIH are given below the table.  

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What can I do?

What is the best way to heat your home to help reduce your impact on air quality?

better ways to heat your home infographic jpeg The following infographic outlines the most preferred home heating option with solar, wind and heat pump technology the most preferred option in terms of reducing your impact on your local air quality. 

What can I do when there are increased levels of air pollution?

If you have noticed that you are usually affected by increased levels of air pollution, you can go out when levels of air pollution increase but you might reduce the amount of exercise you do outdoors.

Older people and those with heart and lung conditions might avoid physical exertion on days with poor or very poor air quality (7-10 ratings).

Adults and children with asthma should make sure that you are taking your medication correctly. If you are unsure, ask your health care practitioner (your local doctor or pharmacist). You may notice that you have to use your inhaled reliever medication more.

Adults with heart and circulatory conditions should not change your treatment schedules on the basis of advice provided by the AQIH. You should seek advice from your health care practitioner (your local doctor or pharmacist) if you need to.

Some athletes, even if you are not asthmatic, may find you are not performing as well as you expect when levels of a certain air pollutant (ground-level ozone) cause poor or very poor air quality (readings 7-10 on the AQIH).

You may notice that when you breathe deeply you feel some discomfort in your chest. This does not mean you are in any danger but it may be better if you do less exercise on these days. Please get medical advice if you have any concerns.

In Ireland, levels of ground-level ozone rarely reach poor or very poor (readings 7-10 on the AQIH).

What actions can I take to reduce air pollution?
  • Conserve energy - at home, at work, everywhere.
  • Look for the energy rating when buying home or office equipment.
  • Carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible.
  • Keep car, boat, and other engines properly tuned.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Avoid excessive idling of your car engine.
  • Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
  • Mulch or compost leaves and garden waste.
  • Consider home heating choices.
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Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

Climate is the average pattern of weather, over many years, for a particular area. Climate is not the same as weather - the weather is what you notice each day – such as sunshine, rain or wind. The climate of the Earth is always changing. In the past the climate has changed as a result of natural causes. For example, after a volcano has erupted, large quantities of dust are blown high into the atmosphere (the air around the Earth). That reduces the amount of sunshine reaching the Earth's surface.

But the words 'climate change' are usually used to mean changes in our climate, which have been seen since the start of the last century (the year 1900). Scientists believe the changes they have seen over this time are mainly because of human behaviour, rather than natural changes.

 

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What Causes Climate Change?

Scientists think that climate change is being caused mainly by “greenhouse gases” that we release when we burn fuels (for example, to heat our homes, generate electricity or power industry). Humans have been using energy in far greater quantities since the start of the last century (the year 1900), than they ever did before.

When fossil fuels like coal, gas, oil, or petrol are burnt they create a gas called carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide makes the greenhouse effect stronger. As a result, more of the sun's heat gets trapped in the atmosphere and the planet warms up. This is what causes climate change. If it continues, it will have a big effect on climates and weather systems all over the world!

Global warming is often described as an anthropogenic process, which simply means "humans caused it".

There are six important greenhouse gases, but carbon dioxide is the most important of them all, because we produce so much of it.

Another very important greenhouse gas is called methane. This is made inside cows and sheep, by the bacteria in their insides. It comes out when they burp!

Do we need to worry about Climate Change?

Scientists predict that climate change will affect much of our world. Many scientists and politicians believe that climate change is a threat greater than anything humans have faced in recent history. Unless we tackle the problem soon, it could cause serious problems, by making the climate much more unpredictable. This could make it much harder to grow enough food for everyone, especially in the developing countries where many people are already poor. Some types of animals and plants could become extinct.

Can we stop Climate Change?

Most climate experts think we need to act quickly to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that humans are releasing into the atmosphere. We will probably be unable to stop the effects of climate change completely, but we might be able to limit them. To do this we all need to think about the energy that we use in our everyday lives, and try to use less.

No one can do everything, but if everyone does something to reduce the amount of energy we use, we have a chance to limit the effects of climate change. Is there something that you or your family could do to help make a difference?

I want to know more about Climate Change!

For more information on climate change , check out the http://www.epa.ie/climate section of this website, look at the following links.

www.climateireland.ie
www.epa.ie/researchandeducation/research/researchpillars/climate/
www.ec.europa.eu/clima/index_en 

 

 or see more frequently asked questions on climate change at this link: http://www.epa.ie/climate/communicatingclimatescience/frequentlyaskedquestions/


Citizen Science

What is citizen science?

Citizen Science is research carried out by members of the public who volunteer to collect scientific data.  This research often focuses on monitoring biodiversity, invasive species and climate.

Carrying out citizen science offers many benefits for both citizens and scientists.  Citizens working together can collect much more scientific data than scientists working alone.  Participating in citizen science can increase public engagement with and understanding of important environmental issues.  Citizen science can encourage people of all ages to get out into nature and can contribute to an increased sense of community.

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What kind of air projects can citizen scientist carry out?

One example of a citizen science project around air quality is the globe project. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Programme is an international science and education programme that provides school students with the opportunity to participate in data collection and to contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the earth system and global environment.

GLOBE was re-launched in Ireland in 2017 and this two-year pilot programme is managed by An Taisce in partnership with the EPA.  Participating schools learn about air quality and the weather by making scientific measurements and using their data to carry out research.

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Fact Files

Are there low smoke zones in Ireland?

Yes. Numerous large towns and cities have low smoke zones. An interactive map is available to view at the following link here.   

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/air-quality/smoky-coal-ban/Pages/Smoky-Coal-Ban-Low-Smoke-Zones.aspx

Are there plans for a nationwide smoky coal ban?

Further details are available from the Department of Communications Climate Action and Energy.

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/air-quality/smoky-coal-ban/Pages/default.aspx

Are there plans for a nationwide smoky coal ban?

Further details are available from the Department of Communications Climate Action and Energy.

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/air-quality/smoky-coal-ban/Pages/default.aspx

Is there any air monitoring taking place at or near schools?

In 2019 a joint European citizen science project will be carried out between many of the European EPA's and the European Environment Agency (EEA).  This project, called the Globe Programme, will focus on the measurement of Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations in the air resulting from car use.  More information on the Globe Programme can be found here.

Is historical air quality data accessible to the public?

Yes. All historical air quality data is available to download from our SAFER database http://erc.epa.ie/safer/dataAndResources/mostPopularResources.jsp?type=download .  A list of all our current and past sites can be viewed on the EPA website at https://www.epa.ie/air/quality/data/

 

What are air quality Zones?

Under the Clean Air for Europe Directive, EU member states must designate "Zones" for the purpose of managing air quality.  For Ireland, four zones were defined in the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 180 of 2011). The zones were amended on 1st January 2013 to take account of population counts from the 2011 CSO Census and to align with the coal restricted areas in the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations  Regulations (S.I. No. 326 of 2012).

The main areas defined in each zone are:

Zone A: Dublin

Zone B: Cork

Zone C: Other cities and large towns comprising Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Drogheda, Dundalk, Bray, Navan, Ennis, Tralee, Kilkenny, Carlow, Naas, Sligo, Newbridge, Mullingar, Wexford, Letterkenny, Athlone, Celbridge, Clonmel, Balbriggan, Greystones, Leixlip and Portlaoise.

Zone D: Rural Ireland, i.e. the remainder of the State excluding Zones A, B and C.

What standard of instruments are used for measuring air quality?

The Agency only use instruments that meet the EN/ISO 17025 standards. Regular maintenance and calibration of the instruments take place to assure the accuracy of the results. 


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