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EPA concerned at home heating systems’ impact on Ennis air


ELEVATED particulate matter levels from domestic home heating systems during cold weather, as experienced in Ennis earlier this month, “is a cause of concern”, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency said it is working with Clare County Council “to better understand the causes of poor air quality in Ennis”.

The Clare Champion contacted the EPA for comment after concerns were raised about the town’s air quality following the detection of a spike in air pollution levels on the night of January 16.

Particulate matter (PM) are minute particles of dust, soot and smoke and the daily limit for PM10 is 50 ug/m3. PM10 of 485.38ug/m3 and PM2.5 of 467.58ug/m3 was recorded in Ennis, January 16, at 7pm, along with sulphur dioxide measuring 67.22ug/m3.

On the same day, China’s notoriously smoggy capital city Beijing experienced moderate to good levels of air pollution.

According to the EPA the daily average PM10 at the Ennis monitoring station for  January 16, 2021 was 105ug/m3.

“This represents an exceedance of both the EU daily limit (50ug/m3 which cannot be exceeded more than 35 times in a year) and the WHO daily guideline value (45ug/m3).”

The EPA spokesperson stated the most recently reported annual average for the Ennis site for PM10 was 20ug/m3, which is half the EU annual air quality standard.

“PM2.5 concentrations averaged 99 µg/m3 for January 16. There is no EU daily standard for PM2.5, however the recorded concentration is above the current WHO air quality guideline for PM2.5­.

“SO2 concentrations averaged 27 µg/m3 for January 16. This is below the EU Standard for SO2 and WHO Air quality guideline for SO2 and the EU Standard.”

The EPA said it was not in a position to comment on air pollutant concentrations in Beijing compared with Ennis.

The recorded air quality in Ennis on January 16 was ‘poor’ under the EPA/HSE Air Quality Index for Health.

The EPA outlined that health advice in such circumstances for the general public is, “Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.”

For at risk groups, adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart conditions “should reduce strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms”.

Also, “people with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.”

When asked did the EPA have concerns about air quality in Ennis, the spokesperson stated, “The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network, is designed to show concentrations of pollutants at ‘representative’ locations.

“This means that concentrations observed at a monitoring site such as Ennis will be representative of towns of a similar size and nature.
“Thus the focus should be on the ‘national’ picture rather than at any one monitoring location.

“Elevated particulate matter levels from domestic home heating (solid fuel combustion) during wintertime and particularly during cold and calm weather, as evidenced in Ennis on January 16, 2022, is a cause of concern in towns and villages throughout Ireland.

“The European Environment Agency estimates 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland are from poor air quality each year. The EPA is currently working with Clare County Council to better understand the causes of poor air quality in Ennis.”

The spokesperson also drew attention to the public awareness campaign (Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, to reduce air pollution from domestic solid fuel

High pollution events in Ennis have been described as an “immediate hazard to the health of Ennis people” by local councillor Johnny Flynn who has renewed calls for the establishment of an Ennis Clean Air Strategy.

By Jessica Quinn

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