Council Partners Environment News

Think ‘ABC’ to Reduce Air Pollution in Cork this Winter

Cork County Council is appealing to people to help reduce air pollution this winter when heating their homes. With colder weather taking hold, the Council says air quality is something we should all keep in mind.

One of the biggest causes of air pollution is fine particulate matter (PM) – tiny particles of smoke, dust and other materials that hang in the air. Medics believe these can be inhaled and enter the bloodstream affecting our respiratory system, brain, heart and other organs.  The burning of solid fuels in domestic fires across Ireland is one of the major factors in our PM levels and these increase in the evenings as domestic fires are lit – sometimes exceeding safe thresholds. 

With all this in mind, Cork County Council and the Department of Environment, Climate Action & Communications are asking everyone to think ‘ABC’ when heating their homes this winter:  

  • Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to light a fire’? Can I heat my home using cleaner fuel sources? These might include gas or oil-fired central heating, electric heaters or air-to-heat pumps. 
  • Burn Acknowledging that for some people there will be no alternative to lighting a fire, cleaner, more efficient, low-smoke fuels help minimise air pollution. There are now a wide range of low-smoke fuel products available on the market, many of which are more cost effective in terms of heat output than traditional coal.
  • Clean your chimney or heating appliance flue at least once a year. This is a proven way of reducing smoke emissions. 

By following these steps, we can all help to make a difference and most importantly we can breathe that difference.

Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan says, “the Environmental Protection Agency estimates 1,500 premature deaths in Ireland are caused every year as a result of air pollution, while the Asthma Society of Ireland campaigns on behalf of asthma sufferers for measures to protect health by reducing the burning of solid fuels. The positive health effects of changing our solid fuel burning habits will benefit everyone and I encourage people to make the right choices to help Cork County breathe easier into the future”. 

Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey says, “under the planned regulations, very low smoke emissions rates will be set for coal, coal-based products, manufactured solid fuel, peat briquettes and wood. This will effectively prohibit the use of bituminous coal in the future.  As a result, only low-smoke fuel products will be available on the Irish market from September 2022. There are already statutory Low Smoke Zones in East Cork and in Mallow where the sale and burning of smoky coal is prohibited. When we have a growing list of low-smoke fuel options available to us, it simply makes sense to play our part in improving air quality”.

Alan Costello, Senior Executive Scientist, Cork County Council, added, “the network of air monitoring stations around Ireland, four of which are in County Cork, indicate that PM increases every evening as people light fires in their homes. A review of data from monitors in Cobh, Macroom and Mallow shows seasonal spikes in particulate emissions that coincide with peak solid fuel burning months. While emissions are not breaching current statutory limits, they have on a number of occasions exceeded guideline World Health Organisation (WHO) levels and it is well known that particulate matter poses significant health risks even at very low concentrations.”

Details of Low Smoke Zones are available on the air quality section of the Government of Ireland website, including an online map with an Eircode search function.

Source: Cork County Council

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