DAERA has published its 16th annual report on air quality.
According to the report a number of pollutants in some areas “continue to exceed air quality objectives”.
There were 19 automatic air quality stations that operated for all of 2017 that provided hourly information on a wide range of pollutants.
Air Quality Standards (AQS) were breached in relation to Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels:
“Three sites exceeded the AQS objective for annual mean NO2 concentration (40 µg/m3). These were as follows:
Belfast Stockman’s Lane (52 µg/m3),
Downpatrick Roadside (47 µg/m3)
and Limavady Dungiven (46µg/m3). “
At Brandywell, Derry; Ballykeel, Ballymena and Kilmakee Leisure Centre Annual Mean Concentrations of benzo[a]pyrene continue to exceed AQS objectives.
In response Clare Bailey leader of the Green Party said
“We know that on average, 550 people in Northern Ireland die from respiratory conditions linked to air pollution each year. The worrying levels of nitrogen dioxide at these monitoring sites show the scale of the air pollution problem.
“We need urgent action to tackle air pollution through the provision of sustainable public transport and the promotion of active travel. The introduction of the Glider system is a positive and should improve air quality standards across the city of Belfast but additional action is urgently needed.
“This report shows that the air pollution problem persists across Northern Ireland.”
We also have very high levels of ammonia emissions that have risen significantly since the 2013 Going for Growth plan to expand agriculture. DAERA are currently developing an Action Plan in response :
“Given this trend of increasing ammonia emissions, the potential for damage to sensitive habitats from excessive nitrogen deposition and the impact on human health, DAERA is currently developing an Ammonia Action Plan.
“This Action Plan will outline a series of potential measures intended to achieve tangible and sustained reductions in ammonia emissions and protect sensitive habitats across Northern Ireland. The Plan will also highlight the need for targeted action at designated sites and examine regulatory policy on farm development. DAERA will continue to work with stakeholders on the detail of these measures and expects to issue a stakeholder engagement document on ammonia reduction in the New Year.”
A number of measures can improve air quality levels including increasing public transport usage, cycling promotion and changing how we heat our homes.
Cyclists are the least exposed to air pollution on daily commutes into a congested city centre. Investment in better infrastructure and common sense fixes to existing infrastructure are a must if we are to give commuters a healthier option that does not put them at risk of sitting in vehicles breathing in damaging levels of pollutants daily.
Some day the next generation will (hopefully) look back from a cleaner society and ask us why we permitted families to live in towns and cities with such levels of pollutants, compared to the low levels we could potentially bring these to with better policy decisions.