Air quality in Ireland is amongst the best in Europe

Date released: Sep 22 2011

2010 air quality monitoring shows:

  • Air quality in Ireland is of a high quality and met all EU standards.
  • Due to traffic, levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM10) remain a concern in Dublin and Cork city centres.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) could be a problem pollutant in the future.
  • In smaller towns, concentrations of particulate matter are elevated due to the use of bituminous coal.
  • Real-time air quality information for Ireland is available on the EPA website at Air Quality Data.

The EPA report Air Quality In Ireland 2010 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality released today shows that air quality in Ireland is of a high quality throughout the country, meets all EU standards and is amongst the best in Europe.

The report provides an overview of air quality in Ireland for 2010, based on data obtained from a national monitoring network consisting of 27 monitoring stations spread throughout the country. New air monitoring stations in 2010 included Longford town, Bray in County Wicklow and Celbridge in County Kildare.

Data from the EPA monitoring program shows that air quality in Ireland continues to be amongst the best in Europe. 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 and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) may be a problem pollutant in the future. PAH arise from domestic solid fuel burning and vehicle exhaust emissions. Traffic is the primary source of nitrogen dioxide and is also one of the main sources of particulate matter. 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 higher than those in cities or in towns above 15,000 population, where bituminous coal is banned. To help with this, from 2011 new regulations will require that all bituminous coal placed on the market in Ireland for residential use has a sulphur content of no more than 0.7 per cent.  In addition, the sale of bituminous coal has been banned in four additional towns in 2011 – Ennis, Clonmel, Carlow and Athlone.

Micheál Ó Cinnéide, EPA Director said: 

"The EPA welcomes the change in legislation regarding bituminous coal, which will have a positive effect on air quality;  however we must also work to reduce traffic emissions through reducing travel demand, emphasising sustainable transport modes such as cycling, walking and public transport and improving the efficiency of motorised transport."

In April and May of 2010, the EPA’s air quality monitoring network was used to assess the impact on health and the environment of the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano. It was found that this incident had no impact on ambient air quality in Ireland.

The Air Quality in Ireland 2010 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality report, available in both English and Irish, can be found on the EPA website at EPA_air_quality_report_2010.

The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides real-time results on the website at Air Quality Data.  Results are updated hourly on the website, and you can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality in your locality is good, fair or poor.

Notes to Editor:
In 2010, measured values of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), heavy metals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and benzene were all below limit and target values set out in the CAFE Directive and 4th Daughter Directive.