LIFE EMERALD – Improving Our Understanding of Ireland’s Air Quality

Date released: Apr 14 2021

  • EPA has started a 3-year project that will improve the level of air quality information available to the public and policy makers in Ireland.
  • LIFE EMERALD is part funded by the European Commission LIFE funding programme.
  • The main objectives are:
    • an operational 3-day ambient air quality forecast;
    • near real-time mapping of the main air pollutants throughout the country and in our major cities and towns; and
    • annual mapping of air pollutants across the country
  • The project will support Irish citizens in making  decisions that positively benefit their health on a day-to-day basis.

The EPA has commenced work on a new 3-year EU part funded project entitled LIFE Emerald - “Emissions Modelling and Forecasting of Air in Ireland”. The project proposes to greatly improve publicly available air quality information and raise awareness around the topic of Irish air quality.

The LIFE EMERALD project will also improve Ireland’s ambient air quality management capabilities, by using an air quality modelling system to gain a better understanding of the factors contributing to poor air quality and develop a system that will provide better information to the public. The project will deliver the following:

  • an operational 3-day ambient air quality forecasting system, which will inform the public of the predicted air quality in the coming days, allowing them to make decisions to better protect their health
  • near real-time (NRT) air quality maps, to provide more detailed information to the public, which will incorporate live data from the growing EPA ambient air quality network
  • annual air pollutant maps, which will allow for more detailed air pollution assessment.

On the commencement of the LIFE EMERALD project EPA Director Dr Micheál Lehane, said,

“LIFE EMERALD will help deliver the first operational national air quality forecast for Ireland. This will allow citizens to become much more informed on their own actions in response to forecast air quality. It will greatly strengthen our knowledge of air pollution nationally. We are delighted to receive the funding from the EU LIFE Programme to help us proceed with this project and we hope to deliver a greater understanding of Ireland’s air quality into the future.”

The EPA will manage the project in co-operation with its main project partners the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Health Service Executive, the Asthma Society of Ireland, University College Cork and the Belgian research institute VITO.  The EPA will also consult and co-operate with other national stakeholders that have an interest in the area of air quality, such as the Irish Heart Foundation.

Ms. Sarah O' Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said,

"Ireland has the highest incidence rate of asthma in Europe with one in ten children and one in thirteen adults developing the condition - with 890,000 people likely to develop asthma in their lifetimes. The Asthma Society of Ireland welcomes the opportunity to be part of the LIFE EMERALD Project as the link between clean air and improved human health is clear.”

Mr. Mark Murphy, the Advocacy Officer at Irish Heart Foundation, said,

“At the Irish Heart Foundation, we welcome the EPA’s LIFE EMERALD project as it will help raise public awareness of the significant damage that air pollution does to cardiovascular health, and highlight what measures could be introduced to reduce the 1,300 premature annual deaths caused by air pollution, the majority of which are due to stroke or heart disease.’’

The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023, with priority given to the provision of the air quality forecast in early 2023.

ENDS

Notes to Editor

Project Partners and Stakeholders: The EPA will work with a number of main project partners, namely the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Health Service Executive, the Asthma Society of Ireland, University College Cork and the Belgian research institute VITO. The project will also involve consultation and co-operation with other national stakeholders, namely the Department of Health, the Department of Transport, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Met Éireann, Dublin City Council, An Taisce, The Central Statistics Office, Teagasc, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the ESRI and The Irish Heart Foundation.

Ambient air pollution: Ambient (outdoor) air pollution is recognised as a major environmental risk to health internationally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ambient 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. Read more.


There are an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland per year due to air pollution. Levels of particulate matter – fine particles - in our air is of growing concern. The two main causes of poor air quality in Ireland are:

  • Particulate matter from domestic burning of solid fuels
  • Nitrogen dioxide from vehicle emissions in urban areas

Levels of this pollutant are particularly high during the winter months when people’s use of solid fuels such as coal, turf and wood impacts negatively on air quality, especially in small towns and villages.

You can find out more information about air quality on the EPA website.