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Dubliners are breathing air with illegal levels of traffic fumes

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Nitrogen Dioxide in the air around Heuston breached EU rules

Nitrogen Dioxide in the air around Heuston breached EU rules

Nitrogen Dioxide in the air around Heuston breached EU rules

Dubliners have been exposed to illegal levels of traffic fumes from exhaust pipes, air quality reports reveal.

The amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) found in the air around St John's Road West, which runs alongside Heuston railway station, breached EU legal limits last year.

NO2 can cause health problems including breathing and neurological difficulties and contributes to some of the 1,300 premature deaths from air pollution in Ireland each year. The maximum level permitted by EU law is an annual average of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.

The level recorded at the monitoring station was 43 microgrammes.

EU sanctions will follow if a management plan being put in place for the area does not improve the air quality.

Worrying

While none of the other 20 monitoring stations in Dublin recorded illegal levels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which produced the report, warned that levels of NO2 were high and it suspected there were other breaches.

Of most concern are neighbourhoods around the M50 motorway, some city-centre streets and the areas around the entrance and exit of the Dublin Port tunnel.

The EPA said while Ireland's overall air quality was good and compared favourably with EU neighbours, such "worrying localised issues" needed to be addressed.

"Poor air quality impacts people's health and quality of life," said Dr Ciara McMahon, director of environmental monitoring at the EPA, who urged a swift switch from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles.

The point about cleaner transport was vividly illustrated between March and May this year when NO2 levels fell dramatically as Covid-19 restrictions kept motorists off the roads. The levels rose as restrictions were eased.

While Dublin has been under a smoky-coal ban for 30 years, burning of solid fuels in open fires and stoves can still cause pollution from soot, dust and other material.

The EPA wants the ban to be extended to all smoky fuels, stressing financial help would be needed to help householders convert heating systems.