November 26th, 2019
The Green Party has criticised the State for the continued delay in the introduction of a nationwide smoky coal ban owing to pressure from lobby groups.
The criticism comes on the heels of the release of preliminary findings in a joint EPA-HSE study that outlines the health impacts of poor air quality in Ireland.
The study’s findings, first published in The Sunday Business Post earlier this month, outline a link between hospital admissions for lung and heart conditions and daily incidences of “fair or poor” air quality in Ireland.
The findings are based on data from hospital inpatient information and EPA air pollution figures but do not take admissions to emergency units or pharmacy visits into account.
In July, the Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton TD said that his Department was loath to roll out a nationwide coal ban due to threats of a legal challenge by the coal industry.
Mr Bruton said that he was “disappointed” that coal firms had taken the route of legal pressure but promised to devise a “legally robust” plan for improving national air quality.
Green Party MEP for Dublin, Ciarán Cuffe said, however, that it is “unacceptable” for Mr Bruton to delay the ban of smoky coal.
“It is time for Minister Bruton to lawyer up and challenge the coal lobby head-on. If he doesn’t take action, people continue to die,” he added.
The ban on smoky coal in the capital was rolled out three decades ago and is reported to be responsible for averting 8,000 premature deaths since its introduction. Air pollution has an estimated health-related cost of €2 billion per year, according to the HSE.
Green Party Councillor for Dublin Mid-West, Peter Kavanagh, who works with older people with Active Retirement Ireland, said that he is particularly concerned about the impact on senior citizens.
“At a time when our health services and hospitals, in particular, are under extreme pressure, it is inexcusable that Government is once again bowing to vested interests at the expense of ordinary people,” he said.
In Ireland, the EPA reports an estimate of 1,180 premature deaths due to air pollution, and the issue has been described as “a global public health emergency” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ireland’s air quality is relatively good by European standards, but it does not fare so well when measured against more stringent WHO guidelines, according to the EPA.
The country has exceeded WHO guideline values for PM10 and PM2.5 – very fine particulates smaller than 10 micrometres that can enter the lungs and cause significant health problems.
The EPA had previously warned that the continued burning of solid fuels such as peat and coal is the key driver of poor air quality in Ireland.