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Breathe easy - air quality in Northern Ireland 'improving'

Air quality in Northern Ireland is improving, a DoE report has said.

The level of harmful pollutants from coal and oil burning declined significantly over the past decade, the paper added.

However some areas near busy roads in Belfast and Newry, Co Down, failed to meet targets.

Average levels of man-made particulate pollution in the UK are estimated to reduce life expectancy by up to eight months, the review added.

The report said: "Continued effort to reduce air pollution is therefore important, together with monitoring to assess progress and to provide sound, science-based input to policy development."

The Northern Ireland Air Quality Monitoring Report for 2008 prepared by the DoE and district councils, provides details of air quality monitoring, summary of results, long term trends and information on progress being made by councils in managing local air quality.

Higher levels of nitrogen dioxide were found at monitoring sites in Belfast, Newtownabbey and Newry. The Newtownards Road and Stockman's Lane in Belfast and Trevor Hill in Newry were among the troublespots.

Plans to improve air quality are being drawn up.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: "The link between air quality and health is well known. Clean air is essential for our health and well-being. By reducing air pollution, we can reduce illness and premature death.

"I welcome therefore, that overall, air quality continues to improve and is good for the vast majority of the time in Northern Ireland."

In 2008/09 £537,000 of DoE funding was provided to district councils under the local air quality management grant scheme.

This can include encouraging people to use public transport and car share.

Monitoring occurred at 32 sites across Northern Ireland with only four within three district council areas reporting levels above air quality monitoring standards, the report said.

Belfast Telegraph