European Commission notified of illegal levels of air pollution in Ireland for first time since 2009 | Fieldfisher
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European Commission notified of illegal levels of air pollution in Ireland for first time since 2009



For the first time in over a decade, illegal levels of air pollution have been detected in Ireland. The St. John's Road West monitoring station near Heuston Station, Dublin recorded nitrogen dioxide levels above the European air quality limit due to high levels of vehicle emissions.
As a result, and as required under Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had to notify the European Commission of these illegal levels of air pollution. The last time the EPA had to issue a similar notification to the European Commission was in 2009.

The EPA's 2019 Air Quality Report found that while air quality across the country is "generally good", there are localised issues, with 33 of the 84 monitoring stations across Ireland recording air pollutants at a level above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Ireland's largest source of air pollutant is the burning of solid fuels such as peat, wood and coal in residential properties. According to the EPA this is also the main contributor to approximately 1,300 premature deaths annually. In Dublin, as with other large urban areas, a large part of the problem is attributable to high levels of traffic. 

The EPA's report proposes a number of solutions to tackle the problem pollutants. Among these include:
  • the introduction of a national smoky coal ban;
  • determining the feasibility of a wider smoky fuel ban for towns and cities;
  • moving toward more energy-efficient buildings and heating systems;
  • restrictions on solid fuel use;
  • the enhancement and promotion of public transport and electric vehicles; and
  • the creation of low-emission zones.
Following notification to the European Commission, the local authorities in Dublin are now legally obliged to produce an Air Quality Action Plan by the end of 2021 in order to address the high levels of nitrogen dioxide. The plan will consider the EPA's suggestions, and will be required to examine both the causes of the high level of pollutants in the affected areas, as well as providing solutions to combat this.

The EPA's Air Quality Plan 2019 is available here.
Written by Patrick Reilly and Dena Keane. 

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