Bray and Longford town are on dangerous side of air quality guidelines

13 May 2016

Bray, via Wikimedia Commons

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the towns and cities around the world breaching safety levels for air pollution – and Longford town and Bray are flying too close to the sun.

Of all the urban areas around the world with air monitoring capabilities, an awful lot are breaching what the WHO calls safe levels. Monitoring two types of small (PM10) and fine (PM2.5) matter in the air across 795 locations in 67 countries, only one in five places was deemed safe.

The types of pollution that register on the PM10 and PM2.5 readings include sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, “which penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health”. And, in Ireland, neither Longford town nor Bray measured up well.

On the readings for fine pollution, Longford town breached the 20 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) target by two, with Bray landing bang on the limit.

On the readings for small pollution, Longford (15µg/m3); Armagh (14µg/m3); Bray (13µg/m3); Belfast (12µg/m3); Derry (11µg/m3), Galway (11µg/m3) and Dublin (11µg/m3) breached the 10µg/m3 acceptable total, with Castlebar and Ennis landing on the limit.

“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest—are the most impacted,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO’s assistant-director general for family, women and children’s health.

The WHO claims that people are powerless when it comes to cleaning up urban air, putting the responsibility firmly at the foot of local, and international, governments.

Sadly, there seems to be a clear divide between the haves and the have-nots, with 98pc of cities in low-and-middle-income countries (with more than 100,000 inhabitants) failing to meet WHO air quality guidelines.

However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreased to 56pc.

According to WHO research, ambient air pollution is “the greatest environmental risk to health—causing more than 3m premature deaths worldwide every year”.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic