Air Quality in Ireland 2012

Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality.

Summary: Ambient air quality trends based on concentration measurements in 2011 of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, black smoke, heavy metals, ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and benzene.

Published: 2013

ISBN: 978-1-84095-521-7

Pages: 80

Filesize: 3,086KB

Format: pdf

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Executive Summary

This report provides an overview of air quality in Ireland for 2012, based on data obtained from the 29 monitoring stations that form the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network. This includes the following pollutants: nitrogen oxides; sulphur dioxide; carbon monoxide; ozone; particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5 and black smoke); benzene and volatile organic compounds; heavy metals; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The network is coordinated and managed by the EPA, as the Competent Authority in Ireland for EU Air Quality legislation. Monitoring stations are located across the country, with new stations added in 2012 in Kilkenny, Balbriggan and Mullingar. Up-to-date information including the Air Quality Index for Health is available at

Overall, relative to other EU member states, Ireland continues to enjoy good air quality, with no exceedances for the pollutants measured in 2012. This is due largely to the prevailing clean westerly air-flow from the Atlantic, a small number of large cities and an industrial sector which is relatively clean and well regulated.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed guideline standards for air quality which are tighter than current EU air quality standards.  Should these be adopted by the EU as new standards, they will pose a challenge for Ireland to meet in the future.

Particulate matter levels in Ireland are of concern, particularly during the winter heating season, when people’s choice of fuel can impact directly on the air quality in their locality and can thus impact on health. In fact, Ireland is above WHO air quality guidelines for particulate matter. To maintain our good standard of air quality and ensure that in the future our air will be healthy and clean, Ireland must continue to implement and enforce the ban on bituminous coal. Households and businesses should use more efficient methods to burn fuel and shift from solid fuel to cleaner alternatives, while also striving to reduce the demand for energy consumption.

 Also under EU legislation, Ireland is required to reduce exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by 10% between 2012 and 2020. This challenging reduction will require an integrated approach across a number of sectors including industrial, transport and residential emissions, but will lead to many health and environmental benefits.

 Levels of NOX at traffic-impacted city centre areas will continue to be a challenge and we must reduce traffic emissions through implementing policies to reduce travel demand, increase the use of alternatives to the private car such as cycling, walking and public transport and improve the efficiencies of motorised transport.