The Major Air Pollutants in Ireland

air pollutants in ireland

The Major Air Pollutants in Ireland

Air pollution is a significant environmental health risk in Europe and is linked to many diseases, including dementia. As a result, the quality of the air we breathe is very important. This article will discuss Irish air quality and some of the major air pollutants in Ireland to be wary of.

 

The EU’s Goal to Reduce Air Pollution

The Gothenburg Protocol was first introduced in the EU in 1999. The goal of the protocol was to cut down on air pollution across Europe. The EU uses the National Emission Reduction Commitments (NERC) Directive to achieve this goal. The NERC Directive sets targets for reducing the following 5 major air pollutants in Ireland: 

  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs)
  • Ammonia (NH3)
  • Particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5)

 

Impact of The 5 Major Air Pollutants

Each of the 5 pollutants above affects the environment and human health in different ways:

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2): Causes acid rain, which damages water bodies, soil, and buildings. SO2 mainly comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx): Contributes to acid rain, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen overload in ecosystems. Primary sources of NOx include agriculture (due to nitrogen use) and burning fossil fuels. 

Ammonia (NH3): Contributes to nitrogen buildup, acid rain, and the formation of secondary particulate matter. 99% of Ireland’s ammonia emissions come from animal manure and nitrogen fertilisers.

Non-Methane Volatile Organic Compounds (NMVOCs): Released from paints, glues, and cleaning agents, as well as from burning fuel, farming, and alcohol production. NMVOCs develop into ground-level ozone, which forms smog.

Particulate Matter (PM2.5): Comes from vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and reactions between other pollutants. PM2.5 can enter the lungs and cause serious health problems. In fact, PM2.5 causes over 1,000 premature deaths in Ireland each year. 

 

Report on Air Pollutants in Ireland

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors air quality in Ireland using 115 stations nationwide. Ireland was given emission reduction targets for 2020 based on 2005 levels. The EPA’s latest report shows how Ireland did in meeting these targets. Ireland met its reduction targets for SO2, NOx, and PM2.5, mainly due to reduced use of fossil fuels like coal. However, Ireland did not meet its targets for NMVOC and NH3. Between 2005 and 2022, NMVOC emissions fell by only 13% instead of the required 25%. During the same period, NH3 emissions increased by 3% instead of a targeted 1% decrease. 

NECD Air pollutants e1717769797778

Changes in the level of the 5 major air pollutants in Ireland (1990-2022)

 

Reducing Air Pollutants in Ireland

The EU allows some flexibility in meeting targets if new data that wasn’t predicted when the targets were set becomes available. This flexibility helped Ireland adjust its NMVOC emissions to meet reduction targets. However, there was no flexibility afforded for the increase in NH3 emissions. The main reasons for failing to meet ammonia targets are the larger cattle population and increased use of nitrogen fertilisers. An EPA Director commented on the findings relating to NH3 levels, saying:

“High ammonia emissions affect local air quality and human health and cause significant environmental damage to important ecosystems. Faster and sustained implementation of ammonia reduction measures set out in Government plans and policies are needed to achieve compliance and protect our air quality.”

 

Conclusion for Air Pollutants in Ireland

Dublin’s air quality is among the best in the world, and Ireland is making progress in reducing some harmful emissions. However, the country still faces specific air quality challenges. In fact, Ireland was one of nine EU countries urged to meet their emission reduction commitments due to our ammonia emissions. Continuous monitoring and adjustments are crucial to meeting environmental and health standards. Southern Scientific provides air monitoring services to help reduce harmful pollutants.

 

Follow the link to learn more about our Environmental Monitoring Services today! 

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