Vehicle growth challenges Irish air quality

Official report finds mainly low pollution levels, stresses need for better monitoring

Management of air quality in Ireland faces twin challenges of dealing with vehicle pollution and adapting to a raft of forthcoming EU legislation, according to a report published yesterday by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In its annual report on air quality in 1997, the EPA says that regulatory action taken against the main traditional pollution sources, such as smoky coal, has succeeded in bringing down ambient levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide to "very low levels". However, other pollutants produced in the main by road traffic are now becoming a problem, the agency reports. In particular, levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates (PM10) are close to existing legal limits at some monitoring stations and would breach future limits likely to be introduced under draft daughter directives to the EU framework directive on air quality. The report describes Ireland's current air quality monitoring effort as "clearly insufficient" and says that the network is "in need of major review and restructuring". In a move timed to coincide with publication of the EPA report, Friends of the Earth Ireland (Earthwatch) has publicised an "official" complaint it made to the European Commission earlier this month. According to the group, Ireland has failed to transpose the EU directive on air quality monitoring into national law and has "not even introduced [a] basic monitoring network".

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