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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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  24 hours 50 ug/m3 Not to be exceeded  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.

Back to top

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. 

Back to top

Air Quality Reports for Limerick


Back to top

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.

Back to top

Regulation of Solid Fuels

Make our air cleaner for everyone!

smokey coal

The Air Pollution Act 1987 (Solid Fuels) Regulations 2022 came into effect on Monday, 31st October 2022.

Since 1998, Limerick City and defined surrounding areas had been designated as a ''Low Smoke Zone” (previously known as a “Specified Area”), for the purpose of controlling the availability of certain types of bituminous (“smoky”) coal.

However, the new regulations have extended this prohibition to all urban and rural areas in the state, and as such, apply throughout Limerick City and County Limerick. They also apply to all solid fuel.

Back to top

What Solid Fuel May Be Sold or Distributed?

You may only retail or distribute coal solid fuel in bags supplied by a registered producer and appropriately labelled. The packaging of an approved solid fuel shall be labelled —

(a) with the words “contents comply with the Air Pollution Act Regulations” and

(b) with the registration number issued to the producer of the fuel under section 22E of the Act of 1987. For further information please click here.

Back to top

AnchorPenalties for Non-Compliance

The Air Pollution Act, 1987 provides for fines of up to €5,000 to be imposed for breaches of the Act and derived regulations. A contravention of a provision of the regulations is an offence under the Act and will be prosecuted under the Act.

Section 14 of the Act allows an authorised person to enter into any premises with other persons or equipment as may be considered necessary. In the case of a private dwelling, 24 hours written notice of intent to enter must be provided unless the occupier consents to an earlier entry.

Cost of Solid Fuels

The Department of Energy, Climate & Communications has provided the following information (summer 2022).

People have to heat their homes and concern is expressed sometimes about the cost impact of further solid fuel regulation on lower-income households who cannot afford to upgrade their heating systems. Moving from smoky solid fuels to low-smoke fuels does not require expensive appliance change.

The SEAI publishes a Domestic Fuels Comparison of Energy Costs report every 3 months and the most recent, from 22 April, shows that low-smoke coal (ovoids) is the most cost-efficient choice of coal – in terms of heat delivered per cent, and the second most cost-efficient overall.

Turf prices are not available for comparison, as there are more informal arrangements in their distribution. However, it should be noted that the heat efficiency per kg of turf is much lower than wood, oil or coal.

Fuel Cent/kWh
Premium Coal (bag) (smoky) 8.46
Standard Coal (bag) (smoky) 8.08
Low Smoke Ovoids (bag) (low-smoke) 7.92
Peat Briquettes 8.22
Wood Pellets 7.95
Softwood – Bags/Pallet/Loose (under 25% moisture) From 5.92 to 11.78
Hardwood – Bag/Pallet 10.52 to 13.50

It is important to note that, irrespective of the introduction of the new regulations, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that the cost of smoky coal has increased as a result of supply chain issues related to the Ukraine crisis.

There can also be a cost difference between coal sourced outside of the state and coal sold here due to differences in tax regimes.


  • If you sell bituminous ('smoky') coal anywhere in Limerick City or County Limerick, 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, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. 
  • If you distribute bags of bituminous ('smoky') coal, you are committing an offence and could be fined up to €5,000. 

Back to top

AnchorEEA: 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.

Back to top

Nitrogen Dioxide Diffusion Tube Survey

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is produced during combustion at high temperatures with the main source in Limerick being vehicles. Short-term exposure to NO2 is linked to adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in asthmatics. Long-term exposure is associated with increased risk of respiratory infections in children.

The annual mean limit for NO2 is 40 µg/m3 as set-out under the EU CAFÉ Directive and recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The EPA has carried out a study to estimate the long-term average NO2 concentrations in our major Cities. As part of that Limerick City and  County Council has carried out a diffusion tube survey for the EPA to monitor NO2 levels in the City. The results of the study for Limerick and other Cities can be found here.

Back to top

Links to Air Legislation

Back to top