Transport emissions result in an exceedance of an EU limit for air pollution in Dublin

Date released: September 24, 2020

  • The EPA’s Air Quality Annual report shows that while Ireland’s air quality was generally good during 2019, there are concerning localised issues.
  • There was an exceedance of the annual average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) EU limit value at one traffic monitoring location in Dublin city centre.
  • Air pollutants were above the WHO’s guideline values for health at 33 monitoring stations across Ireland – this is mostly as a result of the burning of solid fuel in our cities, towns and villages.
  • According to latest estimates there are 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year which can be attributed to air pollution.

EPA monitoring has shown that, in urban areas, the impact of traffic-related nitrogen dioxide pollution is increasing. In addition, the EU limit value for this pollutant was exceeded at one Dublin traffic monitoring location.  The EPA report highlighted that these types of exceedances will continue unless we curb our reliance on fossil fuel powered transport, particularly diesel cars.

Levels of fine particulate matter (fine particles), in our air are also of growing concern, with an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland linked to this pollutant.  World Health Organization’s guideline values for air quality at 33 EPA monitoring stations were also exceeded, mostly due to the levels of fine particles in our air. Levels are particularly high during the winter months when elevated use of solid fuels such as coal, turf and wet wood impacts negatively on air quality, especially in towns and villages. The EPA report notes that any movement towards cleaner modes of home heating fuels will have a subsequent improvement on air quality.

Dr Ciara McMahon, Director of the EPA’s Office of Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, said,

“Ireland is renowned for its countryside and clean fresh air, but we can no longer take this for granted. Poor air quality impacts people’s health and quality of life, so it is now time to tackle the two key issues that impact negatively on air quality in Ireland – transport emissions in large urban areas and emissions from burning of solid fuels in our cities, towns and villages.  The choices we make affect the levels of pollution in the air we breathe, which in turn affects the health of our lungs, heart and other organs.  We need to decarbonise our public transport system and in general reduce our reliance on diesel and petrol-powered vehicles. Moving to cleaner ways of heating our homes will also significantly improve air quality across Ireland.”

Patrick Kenny, EPA Air Quality Manager, continued,

“Air pollutants have a negative impact on people’s health and emissions impact at a local level, in our communities. That is why we are continuing to install more monitoring stations across the country under the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme. With 24 more stations providing online data in 2019, this programme has now almost trebled the number of real-time monitoring stations - to 84 - providing air quality data across Ireland.”

The Air Quality in Ireland 2019 report is available on the EPA website. The EPA continually monitors air quality across Ireland and provides the air quality index for health and real-time results External linkonline. Results are updated hourly on the website, and people can log on at any time to check whether the current air quality is good, fair or poor.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office: 053-91 70770 (24 hours) and

Notes to Editor

Ambient air pollution: Ambient (outdoor) air pollution is recognised as a major environmental risk to health internationally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), External linkambient air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year worldwide due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma. In children and adults, both short- and long-term exposure to ambient air pollution can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma.

  • There was one exceedance of the EU legal limit values – an annual average exceedance of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at the urban traffic monitoring location of St. Johns Road West in Dublin.
  • Ireland was above the tighter World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline levels at 33 (out of 84) monitoring stations in 2019. The major issue in this regard is levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in our cities, towns and villages (with highest levels in towns) due to the burning of solid fuels such as coal, turf and wood.
  • Initial studies of the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions in March – May of 2020, indicate that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a transport derived pollutant, dropped dramatically, especially in our urban areas. Levels of particulate matter did not decrease similarly.

National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme: The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme commenced at the end of 2017. This programme is providing more comprehensive, real-time localised air quality information linked to public health advice, as well as expanding the EPA’s capacity in modelling and citizen science. Real-time monitoring has nearly trebled in Ireland since implementation of the programme began.

There are currently 84 monitoring stations in the network:

  • 24 new monitoring stations were installed in 2019.
  • 3 existing stations were upgraded to provide real-time particulate monitoring.

The Programme also has the following citizen science and citizen engagement activities:

  • GLOBE project in partnership with An Taisce
  • CleanAir@School in partnership with the EEA