EPA warns which Dublin city streets pose a health risk due to pollution

9 Jul 2019

Image: © david harding/Stock.adobe.com

Findings from the EPA show that some Dublin city centre locations may exceed safe EU levels for nitrogen dioxide caused by road traffic.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ireland has published a report warning that some parts of Dublin city may have levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution that exceed the statutory EU limit.

While previous reports have flagged NO2 pollution as a growing concern, this latest report presents new evidence from dispersion modelling and monitoring to show that three key areas of the capital are now likely beyond what could be deemed an acceptable level.

The EPA pointed to a number of city centre streets that produced particularly worrying results, with monitoring sites at Wood Quay, Pearse Street, Gardiner Street, Amiens Street and others cited as being above safe levels.

The EU limit for NO2 concentrations is 40 micrograms per cubic metre in a year, yet most major streets in Dublin exceed this. The report also detected worrying levels along the M50 motorway and at the exit and entrance to the Dublin port tunnel.

However, the findings also show that levels of NO2 drop off significantly away from busy roads and are well beneath the recommended EU limits in residential areas.

A map of Dublin city centre showing streets exceeding safe NO2 limits marked in red.

Modelled annual average NO2 concentrations in Dublin city centre with red indicating where it exceeds EU limits. Image: EPA

An ‘early warning’

The EPA has described these results as an “early warning” that should be seen as a call to action for local authorities in the county to find solutions or face legal consequences.

“If further monitoring confirms that the EU limit values of NO2 have been exceeded, local authorities in Dublin and its suburbs will be legally required to prepare air quality action plans to address the causes and provide solutions in the affected areas,” the report states.

Speaking about the results, the EPA’s programme manager Dr Ciara McMahon said: “Given the known health impacts on people’s respiratory systems, this is a cause of concern.

“Traffic is the dominant source of NO2 in our urban areas and the public must be supported in taking clean transport choices if we want to reduce nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the air we breathe.”

The report coincides with the publication of a European study that linked prolonged exposure to air pollution to increases chronic lung disease and faster ageing.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic