“Clean air is considered to be a basic requirement of human health and well-being. However, air pollution continues to pose a significant threat to health worldwide.” (WHO 2005)
Air quality is important because air contaminants can affect the health of humans. Contaminants that affect people in Ireland include gases that may accumulate indoors, such as radon, carbon monoxide and particulate matter from open fires. Outdoor pollution may arise from fuel emissions, for example from road traffic or from smoky coal use. Wildfires can also reduce air quality.
Departments of Public Health contribute to air quality in Ireland through working with:
- Environmental Protection Agency - who coordinate ambient (outdoor) Air Quality Monitoring and help reduce the health risks of Radon
- Met Eireann - when weather affects air quality by transporting air pollutants from a distance, e.g. volcanic ash, ozone
- Bord Gais - supporting strategies to reduce health risks of Carbon Monoxide exposure
- Emergency planning services - preparation for air quality risk assessment during emergencies
- Local authorities and other emergency services during air quality incidents
Departments of Public Health contribute to air quality improvements by:
- Submissions to Government Departments on Air Quality policy
- Developing position papers on relevant issues
- Development of a National Air Quality Index: Working with the EPA to develop the Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH).This includes advice to those at risk from air pollution on how to protect their health.
- Responding to breaches in air quality standards: We advise on the health risks related to significant breaches of air quality standards. These standards are set by legislation, such as in the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2011 or by agreement, for example, the radon reference levels.
- Risk assessment and advice in relation to serious air quality incidents: We assess health risks using evidence-based standards such as the WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines (2021) to people exposed to air pollution incidents and provide appropriate risk communications. Examples of such incidents include extensive fires which affect a community; indoor air pollution caused by sewer gases; exposure to high levels of radon.
- Development and implementation of a national strategy for Radon control: the National Radon Control Strategy is now in its implementation phase.