Almost 1,000 lives a year could be saved on the island of Ireland if authorities adopt and meet World Health Organization guidelines on air pollution, a report has stated.
The major cross-border assessment revealed that around 2,600 premature deaths can be attributed to air pollution annually.
According to the report, every year there are 1,700 deaths in Ireland and 900 deaths in Northern Ireland associated with air pollution.
The report, Air Pollution and Mortality on the Island of Ireland, was commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland and carried out by experts from Queen’s University Belfast and Technological University Dublin.
The report found that the biggest risk to life from air pollution is heart disease.
It stated that 680 heart disease and stroke deaths in Ireland and 300 deaths in Northern Ireland are linked to the inhalation of harmful particles (particulate matter) caused by the burning of solid fuels.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends air quality guideline levels for particulate matter of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
However, the report states many people living on the island of Ireland are exposed to air pollution “well in excess” of this level.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Chief Executive of the Irish Heart Foundation, Tim Collins, said that thousands of lives could be saved if there was a shift away from burning solid fuels in homes.
“We now need to prioritise those houses that are dependent on those fuels and help those people to move away. And I think that if we could do that, we will save many lives and particularly a lot of disability among people who are particularly vulnerable,” he said.
Mr Collins said there is a very low level of public awareness of the fact that the “bulk of air pollution damaging our health comes from burning solid fuels in homes.”
The worst fuels are wet wood, solid turf and smoky coal, he said.
Last September, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan announced that new standards for domestic solid fuels would be introduced across the State within a year.
Mr Ryan said that the new regulations would help to clear up the air and reduce pollution, chimney fires and improve health.Air pollution linked to 2,600 deaths annually – report
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