Smoky coal ban 'could save 500 lives'
Health experts say almost 500 lives a year could be saved across Northern Ireland if the sale of smoky coal were banned.
The Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) and the British Lung Foundation is calling on the NI Executive to join forces with the Irish government to implement an all-island ban as soon as possible.
They say the EPA Air Quality Report last year revealed that dangerous particulate matter (PM) levels across Northern Ireland exceed both UK and EU air quality recommended limits, with levels in Derry reaching six times the limit and in Ballymena 10 times.
"This is largely due to the burning of smoky fuel and was found even in areas that have already banned the burning of smoky fuel. This is a known health risk that needs to be addressed urgently," the ASI and BLF said.
They said time was of the essence and the sooner emission reducing policies were in place, the sooner everyone in Ireland will be able to enjoy cleaner air.
Stephen Ashe, operations and sales manager with coal importers Fergusson Group Northern Ireland, said house coal was the cheapest fuel available for many households in Northern Ireland and its widespread availability provided homeowners with choice and affordability which must not be jeopardised.