Cork County Council is encouraging households and businesses to rethink their fuel choices over the festive period.
It is universally agreed that particle pollution from solid fuel burning has detrimental health impacts, even at very low concentrations. In Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that each year there are 1,500 early deaths due to air pollution.
Already this winter, the EPA national monitoring network has shown spikes in air pollution across the country, including in Cork County. Evidence from many of the EPA monitoring stations indicate a marked increase in emissions after 6 pm each evening, which suggests the burning of solid fuels in domestic fires is a key contributor.
Protecting our air and promoting greater awareness of the health risks associated with poor air quality is a key priority for Cork County Council. This has come into sharp focus with the designation of new Low Smoke Zones in the county. The new zones include Mallow, together with a large swathe of East Cork encompassing Cobh, Midleton Carrigtwohill and all areas in between. Since September 1st 2020, the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of bituminous or ‘smoky’ coal has been banned in these areas.
The burning of bituminous coal and other smoky solid fuels is acknowledged to be the biggest threat to good air quality, both indoor and out. It releases harmful particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere which can have a detrimental impact on human health, especially on the young, the elderly and vulnerable groups. Recent scientific research has linked PM to impacts on cognitive health among the elderly.
Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Mary Linehan-Foley highlighted how some small changes could make a big difference to air quality:
“If we all just take a moment to consider what we are using and the impact we create. There is now a wide variety of alternatives available, so let’s ensure we purchase low smoke fuel products, use dry timber and never burn household waste. Our choices make a difference and we must protect the quality of our air.”
Cork County Council Chief Executive, Tim Lucey reminds householders that:
“Cork County Council is asking everyone to take some simple steps to protect air quality and support the green agenda. There is now a range of innovative low smoke solid fuel products available on the market which are cleaner, more energy-efficient and will deliver improved air quality resulting in positive human health and environmental benefits.”