Air pollution is a very real threat to the health of all life on this planet. Nobody knows exactly how many deaths are caused each year around the world by air pollution. In Ireland our levels of air pollution are well below some of our more industrialised European neighbours but that does not mean there is no room for improvement.
What is Air?
Air is made up of a number of gases, mostly nitrogen and oxygen and in varying smaller amounts water vapour, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide, etc. Pure Air that has no impurities whatsoever is a very rare thing to find even in the most remote parts of the world, which have no medium or heavy industry, mining, traffic, or population.
Our Smoggy Past
The quantity of smoke emitted by any process or appliance will always depend on the type of fuel used and the efficiency of the burner. An open domestic fire burning household coal would be very inefficient and causes a lot of smoke. A significant reduction (70%) in the average smoke levels in winter was achieved in the Dublin area following the prohibition of the sale of bituminous coal in that area from October 1990. The burning of bituminous coal by households in open fires is now banned in all Irish cities and large towns.
High smoke levels increase the incidence of respiratory problems in the young and the elderly. They also exacerbate the condition of persons already prone to respiratory problems e.g. persons suffering from asthma.
One of the concerns people have now is with the huge increase of cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles on our roads today, what effect has all this on our air quality, being that every vehicle gives off emissions of gases that are harmful to the respiratory system. This harm is most evident in our cities with our narrow streets and congestion problems.
What can I do?
- Switch to smokeless fuel
- Switch to gas, oil or electricity for home heating
- Use less petrol: use public transport, a bike, or walk
- Don't ever backyard-burn household waste. Cut it down with good waste management
- If you have to use cars have them serviced regularly and emissions checked