Air

The World Health Organization has described air pollution as the world's ‘single biggest environmental health risk’.

What can you do about air quality?

Air quality and you

What do you need to know about air quality?

What's happening with air quality?

Air quality in Ireland is generally good however there are localised issues in some of our cities, towns and villages. There was an exceedance of the EU annual average legal limit values in 2019 at one urban traffic station in Dublin due to pollution from transport. Ireland was also above World Health Organization air quality guidelines at 33 monitoring sites across the country – mostly due to the burning of solid fuel in our cities, towns and villages. Ireland was above the European Environment Agency reference level for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a toxic chemical, at 4 monitoring sites due to the burning of solid fuel.

What are the problem pollutants?

Particulate matter from the burning of solid fuel – is estimated to cause 1,300 premature deaths per year. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from transport emissions is polluting our urban areas. Indications are that we will exceed EU limit values for NO2 at further monitoring stations in the future. 

 

Air Quality Index for Health

Air pollutants

Air quality standards

 

What's being done?

traffic jam at night with exhaust fumes

To tackle the problem of particulate matter:

We as a country need to move away from burning solid fuel (coal, wood, turf) towards cleaner ways of heating our homes like gas or electrified heating.

To help with the approach we should implement a national Smoky Coal ban and determine the feasibility of a wider smoky fuel ban for towns and cities.

See what you can do to improve air quality in your home.

 

To reduce the impact of NO2:

Firstly we need to follow through on the legal requirement for an air quality action plan to be developed for Dublin to protect health.

Then we should continue to implement the transport options in the Government’s Climate Action Plan, promoting clean public transport and increasing the use of electric vehicles.

Finally, we all, as individuals, need to consider our transport choices for each journey we take.

See what you can do to improve air quality in your community.

 

Air Quality Index for Health

What we monitor

Monitoring stations

Air quality standards 

Latest reports on Air Quality

in: Air Quality
Blue sky and clouds
Urban Environmental Indicators Report

- Nitrogen Dioxide levels Dublin

This report is on levels of Nitrogen dioxide in Dublin with an assessment based on indicative methods including diffusion tubes and dispersion modelling.

Air Pollution
Air Quality in Ireland 2019

Air quality in Ireland during the year 2019

This assessment is based on monitoring data collected from the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network during the year 2019

FAQs about air quality

in: Air

Air quality in Ireland is generally good however there are localised issues due to the burning of smoky fuel or emissions from transport in dense urban areas.

Popular FAQ's

  • Where do I go with additional queries?

    Please send any additional queries to licensing@epa.ie using the subject heading ‘Medium Combustion Plant’.

  • 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 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. Overall 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 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 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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