European Union (EU) Legislation 

Limit values have been established by the EU to help mitigate the impact on Member State populations. Upon exceedance of these limit values, Member States must implement air quality plans to assess and combat the problem. A national monitoring network supplies an ever increasing level of real-time data on air quality to the Irish public. 

The EPA co-ordinates and manages a nationwide network of 90 monitoring stations which measures the levels of air pollutants and delivers this information to the public. The EPA is currently rolling out a National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, which involves a greatly expanded national monitoring network providing enhanced real-time information to the public, as well as an increased local authority capacity to conduct indicative air monitoring.   

There are also various citizen science initiatives to encourage greater engagement of the public in air quality issues including Globe programme and CleanAir@school.

The expanded network and citizen science projects ensure enhanced availability of accessible real-time air quality information to the public and can inform national policy development. 

Air Quality Index for Health

The EPA’s Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) is a number from one to 10 that tells the public what the air quality currently is in their localised area, and whether or not this might affect the health of you or your child. A reading of 10 means the air quality is very poor and a reading of one to three inclusive means that the air quality is good. The AQIH is calculated every hour, and you can see the current readings at www.airquality.ie.  The AQIH can be used by health professionals to help patients who are sensitive to air pollution manage their condition and reduce their symptoms.

 

Residential Heating

Comparison of national ambient air monitoring results with WHO guideline values for particulates and PAHs shows the need for progress with regard to reducing levels of emissions attributable to residential heating. The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel (the “smoky coal ban”), which was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 has been extended over the intervening period and now applies to all cities and towns with populations in excess of 10,000.

Continued use of peat and wood in Ireland will contribute to air pollution in residential areas. EPA funded research currently being undertaken aims to deliver detailed information on the chemical composition and sources of airborne particulate matter in rural and urban residential areas of Ireland so as to assist appropriate health focused policy interventions.

 

Road Transport

Resulting from the exceedance of the EU limit for nitrogen dioxide in Dublin, the Local Authorities in Dublin and its suburbs, are now legally required to prepare an air quality action plan to address the exceedance. This action plan must be produced by the end of 2021. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) together with the Department of Transport (DOT) have established a joint working group on Urban Transport Related Air Pollution (UTRAP) to address this issue and a report on this groups recommendations is currently being prepared. 

Emissions from Industry

Industrial Emissions (IE) and Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licensing, enforced by the EPA, help to curb emissions from industry and the power generation sectors in Ireland. The introduction of the Medium Combustion Plant Directive has also had a positive impact on emissions from industry. 

EPA research programme

EPA Research 2030 is a 10-year high-level research programming framework under which funding will be allocated under four interconnected research hubs. From 2021, air-related research will be funded principally under the EPA Research 2030 Research Hubs on:

  • Delivering a Safer Environment - A clean, vibrant and safe environment is a prerequisite for good health and wellbeing. Environmental degradation, pollution, as well as known and emerging substances of concern threaten our health and that of our supporting ecosystems. Research under this hub will contribute to understanding the risks and benefits, and to identifying appropriate policy and behavioural responses; and
  • Addressing the Climate Change Evidence Needs - Climate change is already having an impact in Ireland and strong mitigation and adaptation measures are needed. Research is essential in providing the evidence necessary to improve our knowledge systems and inform policy decisions that will advance our ambitions to be carbon neutral and resilient to climate disruption.

Previously, under its EPA Research Programme 2014-2020, the EPA funded research in Air quality under its Climate Pillar Theme 4: Air Science (Air Pollution and Short-lived Climate Forcers).

Further details of the latest EPA Funding Research Opportunities and Awards.

EPA-funded Research Projects

Since 2014, the EPA funded more than 30 research projects (as of May 2021) relevant to the Air area mostly under its Climate Pillar (Air Quality Theme), corresponding to a commitment of over €4.7million.

Examples of EPA-funded research projects include research on:

  • Addressing conflicts of Climate and Air Pollution;
  • Residential solid fuel use in Ireland;
  • Eco-driving; and
  • Air pollution effects on terrestrial ecosystems.
    Research word cloud for air

For more details regarding the EPA-funded projects, please go to our Public Searchable Projects Database.

EPA Research Publications

To date, 47 EPA Research Reports have been published in relation to Air (as of May 2021).