Irish people must break their emotional bond with the “cosy fire”, a leading chemistry expert has said, in the wake of the EPA warning of “worrying” air quality at 52 sites across the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the burning of solid fuel in villages, towns and cities, particularly outside Dublin, is the biggest contributor to poor air quality.
Across the country, poor air quality is responsible for an estimated 1,300 premature deaths per year.
EPA monitoring systems showed that four of the five worst areas for air quality in Ireland last week were in Munster.
Air quality sensors found that Macroom, Tralee, Waterford, Letterkenny and Ennis had the most particulate matter in the air over the seven days.
The Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC) at University College Cork (UCC) this week advised people to avoid evening walks in areas experiencing poor air quality.
Particulate matter is said to be all solid and liquid particles suspended in air, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
Ireland was above World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone at 52 monitoring sites across the country last year, the EPA said.
Air pollution from traffic – nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – fell at all monitoring stations, but most notably at urban-traffic locations where levels fell by up to 50%, due to restrictions on movement over the course of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at UCC, John Sodeau, said that he would advise people to avoid going out in the evenings if the smell and sight of smoke were obvious in localised areas.
The expert in atmospheric chemistry and aerobiology said that Irish people largely remain obl