Limerick air pollution blackspots exceed World Health Organisation limits

Traffic congestion has been identified as a major cause of nitrogen dioxide.

THE People’s Park and Henry Street in Limerick City are among areas that regularly exceed long-term air pollution standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Research conducted by University of Galway environmental science masters student Criodán Ó Murchú shows that parts of the country are well above the newly-revised WHO limits.

Air pollution is linked to 400,000 premature deaths in the EU and more than 1,300 in Ireland every year due to factors such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

Particulate matter includes dust, pollen, soot, smoke and liquid droplets while nitrogen dioxide can cause irreversible damage to the respiratory system. Traffic congestion has been identified as a significant contributor to nitrogen dioxide.

Mr Ó Murchú said provisional results from last year showed that many areas of the country experience long-term air pollutant concentrations above the WHO’s air quality guideline levels.

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The People’s Park and Henry Street in Limerick, Eyre Square in Galway and the towns of Ennis, Mullingar, Roscommon and Longford were notable for exceeding the WHO guidelines, he said.

“All the data is publicly available through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)but there is a misalignment of standards at EU level which is still looking at it through old WHO standards.

“The WHO and scientific consensus is that the old standards are unsafe and it is time they were overhauled. No levels of particulate matter are safe. Low levels all add up over time, while a number of towns have chronic exposure,” Mr Ó Murchú added.