Air pollution claims 1, 300 lives a year

By June Shannon 29th Nov 2021

The Irish Heart Foundation calls for urgent action to combat air pollution

The Irish Heart Foundation has called on the Government to implement stronger air quality regulations immediately, following a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that found that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 1,300 premature deaths here a year.

The Irish Heart Foundation also criticised political resistance to more stringent rules – despite toxic air accounting for almost ten times the 2020 road death toll of 149.

Published recently, the EPA Air Quality in Ireland 2020 report, revealed that particulate matter from the domestic burning of solid fuel is estimated to cause 1,300 premature deaths per year.

According to the EPA report, “Particulate matter levels in 2020 continue to be a concern in villages,  towns and cities. All solid fuels (e.g. coal, peat and wood) produce fine particulate matter emissions when burned  in  open  fires  or  stoves.  Fine  particulate  matter  in  our  air  greatly  impacts  respiratory  and  cardiovascular  health.  This  is  particularly  problematic  in  or  near  villages,  towns  and  cities  because of the cumulative effects of multiple sources of the pollutant and the large numbers  of people exposed.”

“Unfortunately, we have seen no reduction from 2019 in the number of lives being lost prematurely to the dangers of air pollution arising from the burning of solid fuels,”

Dr Tim Collins, CEO, The Irish Heart Foundation

With fine particulate matter from the burning of smoky, solid fuels such as coal, turf and wood remaining the biggest contributor to poor and health harming air quality in Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation called for the forthcoming solid fuel regulations to be rolled out sooner than planned for the benefit of public health.

“Unfortunately, we have seen no reduction from 2019 in the number of lives being lost prematurely to the dangers of air pollution arising from the burning of solid fuels,” said Dr Tim Collins, CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation.

“Despite overwhelming evidence showing that there is no safe level of exposure to air pollution, we continue to have resistance from some within Government and on the opposition benches to stronger solid fuel and air quality regulations that are proven to save lives.”

The EPA  outlined how Ireland was above WHO air quality guidelines for particulate matter and other toxic pollutants at 52 monitoring sites across the country – mainly as a result of the burning of solid fuels in villages, towns and smaller cities.

"It is crucial that this Government brings in a new Clean Air Act and immediately adopts the WHO air quality guidelines,”

Dr Tim Collins, CEO, The Irish Heart Foundation

“It is crucial that this Government brings in a new Clean Air Act and immediately adopts the WHO air quality guidelines,” said Dr Collins.

“Not only will it save lives and clean our air, but it will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help create a healthier, greener society for our children, who are most vulnerable to the dangers of air pollution.

“It’s shocking that in spite of the massively reduced traffic volumes due to the pandemic, we’ve squandered the opportunity to seriously tackle air pollution to the extent that not a single extra life has been saved. We now need decisive action to implement a Clean Air Act that adopts more stringent WHO air quality guidelines,” Dr Collins added.

The Irish Heart Foundation added that air pollution harms nearly every organ in the body, with the impact most damaging on the cardiovascular system.

However, persistent delays and resistance to stronger regulations means that countless lives continue to be needlessly lost, the charity stated.

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