Air Quality in Ireland 2020

Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality.

Summary: Summary of ambient air quality in 2020 based on concentration measurements of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and benzene.

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Published: 2021

ISBN: 978-1-80009-014-9

Pages: 34

Filesize: 4,283 KB

Format: pdf



How was Air Quality in Ireland in 2020?

  • Air quality in Ireland is compliant with legislation however there are localised issues – most notably particulate matter from the burning of solid fuel.
  • Ireland was above World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone at 52 monitoring sites across the country.
  • The travel restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19 had a positive impact on air pollution in our urban areas with up to 50% reductions in traffic pollution.


What are the problem pollutants?

  • Particulate matter from the domestic burning of solid fuel – is estimated to cause 1,300 premature deaths per year.
  • Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from transport emissions fell in 2020, however if we return to pre-COVID traffic levels and if long-term changes are not made to our modes or patterns of transport it will lead to future exceedances in our urban areas.
  • Ireland was above the European Environment Agency reference level for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a toxic chemical, at 4 monitoring sites due to the burning of solid fuel.

What should be done?

  • To tackle the problem of particulate matter:
    • Move away from domestic burning of solid fuel (coal, wood, peat) towards cleaner ways of heating our homes like heat-pump technology.
    • Implement the Government’s proposed nationwide smoky fuel ban in 2022 which will facilitate people to make clean air choices.
  • To reduce the impact of NO2:
    • Publish (by the end of 2021) and implement an air quality action plan for Dublin to protect health.
    • Implement the transport options (clean public transport and increasing the use of electric vehicles) as identified in the Government’s Climate Action Plan.
    • Avoid reverting to pre-COVID traffic levels, maintain pedestrianisation of our urban areas and continue to improve our cycling infrastructure.