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Cork Independent


Changes needed to alleviate air pollution

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019 5:01pm

Residents on Leeside need to drive less and reduce solid fuel burning in order to improve the quality of our air.

That’s according to Professor in Physical and Environmental Chemistry at UCC, John Wenger, who says air pollution in Ireland is having a “serious effect” on people’s health.

Prof Wenger’s comments came after data released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that Ireland’s air pollution breached safe levels 84 times so far in 2019, a figure much greater than that of all of 2018.

Approximately 1,500 people die each year in Ireland as a direct result of air pollution, a figure Prof Wenger claims has remained constant for several years.

“The two main sources of air pollution in Ireland that we can control are local emissions from transport and solid fuel burning. Is there ever a safe level? Probably not.

“During the winter months we see that at least half of the air pollution in Cork city is caused by solid fuel burning," Prof Wenger told the Cork Independent.

Speaking yesterday, which was World Environment Day, the professor warned of the dangers of fine dust particles known as Pm10 (particulate matter ten micrometres or less in diameter) which pose a significant threat to people who already have conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis or an existing heart problem.

“The smaller the particles, the more damaging they are because the can penetrate further into the body and can target every organ in the body. This Pm10 is constantly emitted by the tens and tens of thousands of vehicles that drive on city roads every single day.

“We can’t filter out the tiny particles. What these particles do is they enter the respiratory system and they can affect people with heart problems or respiratory problems,” said Prof Wenger.

Although most of Ireland’s exceedances of safe levels occur in Dublin, Prof Wenger feels that Cork still has a responsibility to continue to monitor and reduce air pollution.

He said: “Even though Cork is within regulation, we must continue to combat air pollution. Every time we reduce pollution it benefits our health, so whilst it’s compliant, it’s not the whole picture and the important thing is to keep on working to reduce pollution,” he concluded.

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