Department of Environment, Climate Change and Communications of Ireland

10/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/21/2021 07:59

Air Quality

Poor air quality is a major health risk. It can cause lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Children, the elderly, and people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions are most affected. Air pollution can also have economic and environmental impacts. Ireland has already taken many steps to tackle air pollution and is currently considering additional policy options. The aim of these is to ensure that we reduce the amount of certain pollutants to meet our EU and international targets by 2030. Air quality monitoring in Ireland is carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however local authorities may also carry out monitoring in their local areas. Data from all EPA monitoring stations is available online at all times on its Air Quality Index.

National Clean Air Strategy

The National Clean Air Strategy will set out a framework for how all government departments can work to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air. It will work alongside other plans, such as the National Air Pollution Control Programme and the National Energy and Climate Plan, to tackle the key challenges of air pollution. These include:

  • Transport emissions, especially road transport emissions of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5)
  • Emissions from industry, agriculture, and shipping
  • The persistent problem of "smoky" emissions from burning solid fuel in homes

Solid Fuel

We all need to keep warm in winter, and while solid fuel fires are a feature of many Irish homes, these fires are a leading cause of air pollution.

Burning solid fuels releases a pollutant called fine particulate matter (PM2.5). According to the European Environment Agency, this pollutant is linked to some 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland each year.

It can trigger asthma attacks and cause a range of other health effects, including:

  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Pneumonia
  • COPD
  • Lung cancer
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath

People with asthma, children, and the elderly are most at risk.

However, by taking some simple steps, we can all make a difference and help to reduce this pollution.

The simple steps are "The ABC for Cleaner Air":

  • A - Ask yourself "do I need to light a fire?" - If you have a suitable alternative, please try to use this
  • B - Burn cleaner fuels - If you decide to light a fire, make sure to choose cleaner low smoke fuels
  • C - Clean your chimney and maintain your stove at least once a year - Keeping your chimney cleaned and your stove maintained will allow your fire to burn more efficiently and reduce the level of pollution

This infographic from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows how you can take steps to reduce air pollution through better fuel and appliance choice.

Together we can improve air quality in our homes and for our communities.

Be the difference. Breathe the difference.

Smoky Coal Ban (Low Smoke Zones)

In Low Smoke Zones there is a ban in place on the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of bituminous ("smoky") coal . These zones are:

Carlow Carlow
Cavan Cavan
Clare Ennis
Cork Cork / Cobh / Middleton / Mallow
Donegal Letterkenny
Dublin Dublin City / Fingal / Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown / Dublin South
Galway Galway
Kerry Tralee / Killarney
Kildare Maynooth-Celbridge-Leixlip / Newbridge / Naas-Sallins
Kilkenny Kilkenny
Laois Portlaoise
Limerick Limerick
Longford Longford
Louth Drogheda / Dundalk
Mayo Castlebar/Ballina
Meath Navan / Ashbourne
Offaly Tullamore
Sligo Sligo
Tipperary Clonmel
Waterford Waterford / Tramore
Westmeath Athlone / Mullingar
Wexford Wexford / Enniscorthy
Wicklow Arklow / Bray / Greystones / Wicklow-Rathnew

An interactive map is available which includes an eircode search facility, where you can enter the eircode of any premises to see whether or not it falls within a Low Smoke Zone. Individual maps of the Low Smoke Zones are also available.

All coal products sold or used in a Low Smoke Zone must be clearly labelled as being suitable for use there. Low smoke coal is cleaner as well as more carbon efficient and heat efficient. It can deliver climate benefits as well as improved air quality and human health benefits. It is also cheaper per unit of heat produced than traditional "smoky" coal.

The local authorities are the enforcement agencies for breaches of the Low Smoke Zones legislation. This means that any complaints about "smoky" coal in a Low Smoke Zone should be made to the relevant local authority. The local authority may impose on-the-spot fines, or bring a prosecution to court, where fines can range up to €5,000.

Your questions answered for Householders: Smoky Coal Ban


Your questions answered for Retailers and Suppliers: Smoky Coal Ban


Sulphur content of coal

All coal sold in Ireland for home heating, including "smoky" coal for use outside of Low Smoke Zones, must not be over a legal limit for sulphur content. The limit is 0.7% of sulphur by weight. This is to help protect human health and the environment by reducing pollution caused by sulphur dioxide, which is given off by burning coal.

Coal wholesalers, distributors, and certain retailers must hold a SWiFT 7 certificate to ensure that their products are in line with national and EU standards for sulphur content. They must also register with the EPA.

You can find further information about SWiFT 7 on the EPA website page for Coal Bagging Operators and Solid Fuel Suppliers.