The survey provides an overview of air quality and is based on data obtained from 28 monitoring stations across Ireland.

The results are compared to the limit values set out in EU legislation on ambient air quality, Clean Air for Europe Directive 2008 and 4th Daughter Directive 2007.

The main results found that air quality in Ireland was generally good and is well above the European average for ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

The high standard is probably due to the prevailing Atlantic airflows, relatively few large cities and the lack of widespread heavy industries.

Dublin and Cork city centres and some smaller towns fell below the generally good standards, however. Levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in Dublin and Cork were higher with one site in Dublin exceeding 2010 limits.

Traffic is the primary source of particulate matter and despite cleaner vehicle emissions technology, the increase in numbers of vehicles has offset any benefit.

EPA programme manager, Dr. Micheál Lehane, said: “Air quality across Ireland is generally good.

“However increased levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter observed at Dublin and Cork city centres show the need to reduce the environmental impact of traffic.

“Vehicle emissions technology has undoubtedly decreased the impact of individual vehicles, but any benefits have been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles.”

Domestic solid fuel use is the other main source of the particulate matter and this has an impact on air quality in areas where the sale of bituminous coal is permitted, particularly in small towns.

Dr Lehane said: “The EPA asks the public to consider the impact that their choice of domestic heating fuel can have on the environment and air quality.

“An extension of the ban on the sale of bituminous coal to other areas would also further improve air quality.”

The four Dublin local authorities exceeding the limit value are preparing a plan to address this, although provisional data indicates that levels of nitrogen dioxide measured to 30 September in 2010 were below the limit value.

Alison Brown

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