Air Quality

Ireland’s air quality currently is good, relative to other European Union (EU) Member States, but maintaining this standard is a growing challenge.



Despite our monitored air quality being within EU limit values, the levels of particulate matter is of growing concern, especially during the winter months when domestic solid fuel burning can directly impact on air quality and on our health. In our larger urban areas we face potential exceedances of nitrogen dioxide limit values unless we reduce our dependence on the private motor car.

Assessments and Reports

For all the latest EPA assessments and information on Air click here.

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Air Quality Monitoring in Limerick

Limerick City and County Council has installed three air quality monitors in the metropolitan area of Limerick to provide live indicative air quality data to the public. These monitors are located in Limerick City, at Mungret and Castletroy. They measure particulate matter (PM) which is commonly used as an indicator of dust particles in air, including total suspended particulates, PM10, PM2.5 and PM1.

PM10 is particulate matter 10 microns or less in diameter, PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter and PM1 is particulate matter 1 micron or less. PM2.5 is generally described as fine particulates. As a comparison, the width of a human hair is around 100 microns so approximately 40 fine particles will fit along its width.

The particulate matter indices that are of primary concern for human health are PM10, PM2.5 and PM1. This is the sub-fraction of particles which can penetrate into the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.

Data from the air quality monitors is hosted by and can be accessed here. The website uses Google Maps. To use the website, zoom into the Limerick area of the map. This will allow the user to select and search data from one of the three monitors in Limerick. Average 24 hour and hourly data is available, as well as a facility to search past data.

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Air Quality Standards

The CAFE (Clean Air for Europe) Directive sets air quality standards for member states in Europe and has been transposed into Irish legislation by the Air Quality Standards Regulations.

The targets for the protection of human health from particulate matter can be found at the EPA’s here.

The limit values below are taken from the EPA’s website and based on those set in the CAFE Directive 2008/50/EC.

Pollutant

Objective

Averaging Period

Limit Value

Basis of Application of the Limit Value

Limit Value Attainment Date

PM10

Protection of human health

24 hours

50 ug/m3

Not to be exceeded more than 35 times in a calendar year

1 Jan 2005

PM10

Protection of human health

calendar year

40 ug/m3

Annual mean

1 Jan 2005

PM2.5

Protection of human health

calendar year

25 ug/m3

Annual mean

1 Jan 2005

PM2.5

Protection of human health

calendar year

20 ug/m3

Annual mean

1 Jan 2020

Assessment of air quality with respect to these standards requires the use of measurement methods known as Standard Reference Methods. The Council’s air quality monitors are not designed for direct assessment of compliance with the CAFE Directive, and provide indicative data (an indication of air quality). The results can be affected by localised events that can cause occasional peaks (e.g. pollutants from a car idling beneath the monitor). However, the monitors used by the Council are certified under the UK MCERTS (Monitoring Certification Scheme for Equipment) scheme as indicative PM10 monitors.

The air quality monitors will allow the Council and the public to review long-term trends to establish any improvement or deterioration of air quality in the metropolitan area of Limerick.

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Protection of Human Health

The air quality data on the website is provided for public information and is not intended to provide health advice. However, there is a link on the Air Quality Monitoring website to the Daily Air Quality Index, which is used by the UK and is consistent with the Air Quality Index for Health in Ireland.

Please Note: Other components of air which may contribute to the Air Quality Index for Health (SO2, NO2 and  Ozone)  are not currently measured by the Limerick City and County Council monitors. 

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Air Quality Reports for Limerick

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Air Pollution / Nuisance

Section 4 of the Air Pollution Act 1987 defines 'Air Pollution' as a 'condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such a quantity as to be liable to:
 

  1. Be injurious to public health
  2. Have a deleterious effect on flora or fauna or damage property, or
  3. Impair or interfere with amenities or the environment'

The legislation applies therefore in cases where there are emissions of smoke, particles, other fumes, or where there are unpleasant external odours.

To download the Air Emissions Licence Application Form click here.

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Regulation of Solid Fuels

Sneeze Wheeze Unease Autumn 2017 810x456

The Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sales, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 326 of 2012), as amended, have consolidated all previous applicable regulations made under the Air Pollution Act, 1987.

The Regulations declare the city and defined surrounding areas to be a 'Specified Area of Limerick' (also known now as a 'Low Smoke Zone'), for the purpose of controlling the availability and use of certain types of coal.

It is an offence under Section 6 of these regulations for the occupier of any private dwelling within the 'Specified Area/Low Smoke Zone' to burn bituminous (smoky) coal.

Furthermore, it is an offence to market, sell or distribute any bituminous (smoky) coal within the 'Specified Area/Low Smoke Zone'.

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Specified Area of Limerick (Low Smoke Zone)

The extent of the specified area of Limerick is the city of Limerick, together with the included areas in the county of Limerick, and the included areas in the county of Clare. Click here to view the Map.

The included areas in the county of Limerick are:

  • All of the Electoral Divisions of Ballycummin
  • All of the Electoral Division of Limerick South Rural
  • In the Electoral Division of Ballysimon The townlands of Ballybrennan, Ballysimon, Ballysimon (Dickson), Ballysimon (Staunton), Ballysimon Commons, Coolyhenan, Drombanny, Dromroe, Garryglass, Kilbane, Killonan, Knockananty, Milltown, Newcastle, Newtown, Peafield, Sreelane and Towlerton
  • In the Electoral Division of Ballyvarra - The townlands of Ballyclogh, Casteltroy, Garraun, Garraunykee, Rivers and Woodstown
  • In the Electoral Division of Roxborough - The townlands of Bohereen, Ballyclogh, Ballysheedy West, Derrybeg, Derryknockane, Rathurd, Rootiagh, Routagh and Roxborough

Please Note: Some areas of south east Co. Clare, close to the city, are also included.
 

What Coal May Be Sold, Marketed, Distributed or Burnt In the Specified Area (Low Smoke Zone)?

It is a legal requirement for bags of non-bituminous (smokeless/low smoke) coal to be clearly identifiable by being marked as follows in letters at least 2 centimetres high and in a form which is clearly legible: 

  • The name and address of the person who packed the bag
  • 'APPROVED FUEL - Contents comply with the Air Pollution Act Regulations'

Download the Sneeze, Wheeze, Unease poster here.

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Penalties for Non-Compliance

The Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 enable Limerick City and County Council to take enforcement action against anyone suspected of non-compliance and the Council enforces these regulations vigorously and impartially by initiating prosecutions at District Court level. 

Section 20 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 increased the enforcement options for local authorities by amending Section 12A of the Air Pollution Act 1987 to enable the issuing of fixed penalty notices i.e. Spot Fines. Following the signing into law of the Air Pollution (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2015 in December 2015, local authorities now have the option of issuing fixed penalty notices for alleged breaches of the 2012 Regulations.

Fixed Penalty Notices allow the recipient the option of avoiding legal proceedings if payment is made within 21 days of issue.

Fixed Penalty Rates

The applicable fixed penalty rates for alleged breaches of the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 are as follow:

5.(1) A person or body shall not place on the market, sell or distribute any specified fuel within a specified area - Applicable Rate: €1,000

5.(2) A person or body shall not place on the market, sell or distribute, within a specified area, any solid fuel in a bag unless;

  • (a) It is sealed. Applicable Rate: €500
  • (b) There is printed on such bag a notice in the form set out in Schedule 3 to these regulations. Applicable Rate: €500

5. (4) A person or body may transport specified fuel within a specified area provided;

  • (b) That such vehicle is not being used at the same time within that specified area for the sale or distribution of any other fuels. Applicable Rate: €500

5. (5) The owner of any vehicle which is used for the transport of specified fuel within a specified area shall retain on the vehicle;

  • (a) A record of the quantity of each type of specified fuel on the vehicle and the name and address of the person or body who supplied the fuel. Applicable Rate: €250
  • (b) A record of the destination or destinations of the specified fuel and the name and address of the person or persons purchasing the fuelApplicable Rate: €250

7. (1) A person or body shall not place on the market, sell or distribute bituminous coal in a bag or any other unit of sale outside specified areas unless;

  • (c) Where the unit of sale is a bag, it is sealed. Applicable Rate: €250
  • (d) Such a person or body holds a current record setting out, inter alia, the registration number issued by the Agency to the bagging operator who supplied the product verifying that the product is compliant with Regulation 5(a) and (b). Applicable Rate: €250

A recipient is not obliged to pay this fine.

If full payment is received within 21 days of the date of issue, then the Council will not instigate a prosecution in the District Court in respect of the alleged offence.

Therefore, if a recipient doesn't pay at all, it is likely that he/she will be prosecuted in an open session of the District Court, where if convicted, he/she could be fined up to €5,000 plus (significant) legal costs.

Under this legislation therefore, anyone who holds 'smoky' coal in the specified area of Limerick, and who attempts to advertise, distribute or sell it within the area could be liable for an immediate spot fine of €1,000.

Remember:

  • If you sell bituminous ('smoky') coal in Limerick City or surrounding suburbs, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. You are also contributing to the creation of an environmental and health hazard in your city. 
  • If you have bags of bituminous ('smoky') coal on display or signs advertising this coal, in Limerick City or surrounding suburbs, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. 
  • If you distribute bags of bituminous ('smoky') coal in Limerick City or surrounding suburbs, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. 
  • If you do any of the above, you can now be issued with a €1,000 fine on the spot.
  • If you fail to pay the fine, you may end up in court.
  • If you burn bituminous ('smoky') coal in Limerick City or surrounding suburbs, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. You are also contributing to the creation of an environmental and health hazard in your neighbourhood and community. Those with respiratory difficulties can experience severe discomfort and exacerbation of their symptoms as a result of the burning of this type of coal.

To view our solid fuel information material click here.

To view the specified area of Limerick Map click here.

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EEA: Air Quality in Europe Report 2014

On 21st November 2014, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published its Air Quality in Europe 2014 report. 

This report presents an overview and analysis of air quality in Europe from 2003 to 2012 and reviews progress towards meeting the requirements of the air quality directives.

The report can be viewed on the EEA website click here
 

North South Ministerial Council Residential Solid Fuel and Air Pollution Study

This report was jointly commissioned by the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland (DoENI) and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (An Roinn Tithíochta, Pleanála, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiύil) and prepared by Ricardo Energy & Environment. 

It is imperative that Government at all levels plays a key role to improve the health of its citizens by devising, implementing, and enforcing policies and legislation, to reduce pollutant emissions. It is with this understanding, and the background that one of the key sources of pollution in Northern Ireland and Ireland is residential solid fuel burning, that the North South Ministerial Council announced the commissioning of the joint North-South study on Residential Solid Fuel and Air Pollution.

The report was published in March 2016. To view the report click here.

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Links to Air Legislation

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