Traffic fumes polluting cities
Exhaust fumes from traffic are creating high levels of pollution in Cork and Dublin city centres, an air quality report has revealed.
Even though most new cars are cleaner and greener than ever, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said heavier vehicle volumes were a cause for concern.
Tests at 25 permanent sites and three roving monitors found Ireland's air was generally good thanks to westerly winds off the Atlantic, few large cities and a lack of widespread heavy industry.
But Dr Micheal Lehane, EPA programme manager, said the increasing levels of traffic were cancelling out the improvements in emissions.
"Air quality across Ireland is generally good," Dr Lehane said. "However, increased levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter observed at Dublin and Cork city centres show the need to reduce the environmental impact of traffic.
"Vehicle emissions technology has undoubtedly decreased the impact of individual vehicles, but any benefits have been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles."
The EPA said traffic was the primary source of nitrogen dioxide and also one of the main sources of particulate matter.
Levels of nitrogen dioxide, which comes from combustion at high temperatures, mainly in vehicles and power stations, were above advised limits in Winetavern Street, Dublin. The EPA also warned levels have been close to the agreed limits in traffic-heavy areas of Cork and Dublin.
Heavy traffic volumes were also blamed for high particulate matter which the EPA also identified as a problem in some small towns where higher than average levels were recorded mainly from burning solid fuels such as coal.
Dr Lehane said: "The EPA asks the public to consider the impact that their choice of domestic heating fuel can have on the environment and air quality. An extension of the ban on the sale of bituminous coal to other areas would also further improve air quality."