Air quality in Ireland remains good

Date released: Oct 10 2007

The EPA report Air Quality in Ireland 2006 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality released today shows that air quality in Ireland was good throughout the country and complied with all the air quality standards in force across Europe for all pollutants.


Results were based on monitoring data from 24 stations, producing hourly or daily data as required by the EU Directives on Air Quality. 

 
Dr Ciaran O’ Donnell, EPA Programme Manager said, “What our results for 2006 show is that attaining good air quality depends on reducing local emissions.  Traffic and non-smokeless fuel are the two main causes of poor air quality in Ireland.  Increasingly, poor air quality is associated with smaller towns.  The EPA is encouraging the public to consider the environment in their choice of domestic fuels.” 
 
The main pollutants recorded in 2006 were nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM10).  Nitrogen dioxide levels were highest in urban areas, mainly due to traffic density.  Particulates were also high in cities, again mainly due to traffic density.  However, the highest level of particulates were found in smaller towns with the use of non-smokeless fuel being the most likely cause.


Levels of ground-level ozone, which is harmful to health, were higher in 2006 than usual.  Ozone is formed from the reaction of certain pollutants with sunlight in hot weather.  An episode of particularly high ozone in July was caused by a combination of hot, sunny weather and transport of polluted air masses from mainland Europe. 


The Air Quality in Ireland 2006 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality report, available in both English and Irish, can be accessed on the EPA website at http://www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/air/quality/ .

Real-time air quality information is available on the EPA website at http://www.epa.ie/whatwedo/monitoring/air/data
This provides direct access to current levels of pollutants from relevant fixed stations across Ireland.
 

Notes to the Editor:


Report Highlights:
µg/m3  micrograms per cubic metre
mg/m3  milligrams per cubic metre

  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2) concentrations measured in 2006 were very low relative to the limit values. There were no exceedances of either the daily limit value of 125 µg/m3 or the hourly limit value of 350 µg/m3 at any station.
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations measured in 2006 were compliant with all limit values. The highest annual mean value of 35 µg/m3 recorded at Winetavern Street in Dublin was within the limit value of 40 µg/m3.   The likely cause of the high levels is traffic emissions. There were no exceedances of the hourly limit value which will permit no more than 18 exceedances greater than 200 µg/m3 in a calendar year from 2010 onwards.
  • Particulate matter (PM10) concentrations in 2006 were similar to those measured in 2005. All stations were compliant with the standard introduced from 2005 which permits no more than 35 daily values greater than the limit value of 50 µg/m3. The highest number of exceedances occurred at Ennis, where 19 values greater than 50 µg/m3 were recorded.  The likely cause of the high levels is use of non-smokeless fuels.  Annual mean concentrations measured at all stations were below the 40 µg/m3 limit value for annual mean. This report contains black smoke results for the April 2005–March 2006 reporting period.
  • Lead (Pb) concentrations measured at all stations in 2006 were below the limit value of 0.5 µg/m3 which came into force on 1 January 2005.  Lead levels recorded were all less than one-tenth of the limit value.
  • Benzene (C6H6)  concentrations measured at all stations in 2006 were below the limit value of 5 µg/m3 which comes into force in 2010. The highest annual mean value of 2.7 μg/m3 was recorded at Rathmines in Dublin.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations measured at all fixed locations and at a number of additional EPA mobile sites in 2006 were well within the daily 8-hour mean limit of 10 mg/m3. The highest maximum 8-hour CO level of 6 mg/m3 was recorded at Coleraine Street in Dublin.
  • Ozone (O3) concentrations measured in Ireland in 2006 were higher than recent years. During an episode in July of high ozone concentrations, the hourly information threshold of 180 µg/m3 was exceeded at four stations: Kilkitt, Valentia, Glashaboy and Emo Court. The 8-hour target value of 120 µg/m3 was exceeded at almost every station.  The highest number of exceedances was 8 days at Valentia, well within the permitted number of 25 days.