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Monday 20 May 2019

Majority of Wexford exposed to harmful smoky coal

Dr John Wenger of the UCC Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry
Dr John Wenger of the UCC Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry

By Esther Hayden

New research shows that air pollution in Enniscorthy exceeds safe guidelines.

The Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) has said it is unacceptable that people living in County Wexford are currently being exposed to harmful pollution emitted from the burning of smoky coal.

Particulate Matter, a type of pollution caused by domestic burning of smoky coal, penetrates the lungs and sinus, aggravating asthma and other respiratory conditions. There is no safe level of exposure to the pollution caused by smoky coal and with more than 14,268 thousand people in County Wexford suffering from asthma, the Asthma Society of Ireland is calling for an immediate ban on this nasty pollutant.

A smoky coal ban is already in place in Wexford town; however the majority of towns in the county including Enniscorthy, Gorey and New Ross remain unprotected, leaving the health of thousands of people at risk.

The Asthma Society of Ireland is calling on the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly TD, to extend the ban on the sale of smoky coal nationwide and to ensure everyone in County Wexford is protected from this dangerous pollutant proven to cause asthma attacks, lung disease and cancer.

The European Environmental Agency estimates that 1,229 lives were lost in Ireland because of air pollution in 2013. Research currently being carried out by University College Cork as part of the EPA-funded SAPPHIRE project, shows that air pollution in Enniscorthy exceeds World Health Organisation guidelines for safe levels of particulate matter.

Speaking at a recent Asthma Society conference, Dr John Wenger, of the UCC Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry said: 'Particulate pollution remains a problem, especially in small towns during winter months. Our research in Enniscorthy shows that the level of particulate matter can be up to 10 times higher between 5pm and midnight, a time-frame that is consistent with solid fuel burning.'

Sharon Cosgrove, CEO of the Asthma Society said: 'This most recent research clearly indicates that the only solution to this public health threat is an outright ban on smoky coal. Regardless of what corner of Ireland you live in, everyone has the right to breathe clean, unpolluted air. A countrywide ban on smoky coal would be a momentous step in saving lives and ensuring the children of Wexford and throughout the island of Ireland can breathe freely."

In Ireland, over 470,000 people have asthma; this is the fourth highest prevalence of the respiratory disease worldwide. It is estimated one person a week dies from asthma; yet 90 percent of of these deaths are preventable. The evidence presented by leading environmental and health experts at the recent Asthma Society of Ireland conference clearly indicate the risk smoky coal poses to health can no longer be ignored and failing to act quickly on this silent threat is detrimental to the public's health.

Wexford People

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