Dublin offsets the health effects of air pollution - FFT Ecology News

Dublin offsets the health effects of air pollution

Martin Fitzpatrick is the environmental health officer in charge of the Noise Pollution and Air Quality Monitoring Department of Dublin City Council, Ireland. It is also the focal point in Dublin for a pilot project managed by the European Commission DG Environment and the European Economic Area (EEA), aimed at improving the application of air quality regulations. We asked him how the city of Dublin solves the health problems caused by poor air quality.

What are you doing to improve the air quality in Dublin and Ireland?

We believe that we have effectively solved the air quality problems in big cities. An example can illustrate this point well: a ban on the sale and sale of pitch (smoke) fuel was introduced in Dublin in 1990. Colleagues in medical research studied the effects of this decision and found that since 1990, Dublin has avoided 360 deaths per year.

However, medium-sized cities are still plagued by poor air quality, and the authorities are now considering new legislation to extend the ban on the sale of asphalt fuel to even smaller population centers.

In Ireland, the Ministry of Environment is the official agency responsible for air quality and related departments. At the same time, the (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency is its action agency. Regarding how to convey guidance on environmental policies to the level of local authorities, the respective roles of ministries and agencies are clearly defined.

What challenges does Dublin City Council face in the field of health? How do you act?

Dublin is the epitome of other big cities in the European Union. There are many common features in the problem to be solved. Obesity, cancer and cardiovascular problems are the main public health problems in the European Union including Ireland.

The council recognizes that much of the work done is related to public health. A notable example is our project linking air quality with public participation. The project was carried out with the EU Joint Research Center a few years ago. Taking benzene (a carcinogenic air pollutant) into consideration, the “personnel project” was held in six European cities. After receiving a large number of volunteer requests through national radio programs, we turned these people into walking and talking air quality controllers. They wear benzene badges so that they can track their exposure to the pollutant on any given day. Then, we looked at their air quality levels and the impact of their daily behavior on their health.

All volunteers received replies about the collected data. An interesting anecdote of this project is the unexpected conclusion that if you want to reduce your exposure to carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, you need to avoid frying bacon! A volunteer who worked on a grill in a local cafe reportedly had high exposure levels.

The serious aspect of this anecdote is that we need to examine the comprehensive interaction of pollutants in indoor and outdoor environments.

Can you give an example of an Irish initiative to improve indoor air quality?

An obvious example is the smoking ban in 2004. Ireland was the first country in the world to ban smoking in the workplace. This ban allows us to focus on the subject of occupational exposure while improving air quality.

As an interesting side effect that is difficult to predict, dry cleaning is particularly an industry affected by the ban. The turnover of these companies has been declining since 2004 due to the smoking ban. Therefore, unexpected effects may sometimes occur.

How does your organization notify citizens?

Informing citizens is an important part of our actions and daily work. The Dublin City Council produces an annual report summarizing the air quality of the previous year. These reports are all available online. The (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency also has an air quality monitoring network, which shares information with citizens and local authorities.

Another example is unique to Dublin. It is a project launched this year called Dublin (Dublinked), which collects and publishes information held by the Security Council. This can be data generated by local authorities, private companies that provide services in the city, or residents. The European Commission pointed out in its 2009 letter that the value of reusing public sector information is estimated at 27 billion euros. This is one of the measures taken by the City Council to restart the economy.

Dublin has participated in air quality pilot projects along with other European cities. How does Dublin get involved?

At the invitation of the European Economic Area and the European Commission, Dublin City Council also participated. We believe this project is an opportunity to share best practice models and learn from sharing meaningful experiences.

During the project, we noticed the progress of other cities in establishing emission inventories and establishing air quality models. This prompted the Dublin City Council to make progress on these tasks. However, we quickly realized that it would not be very convenient if only the Council considered the emission inventory and created an air quality model. So we sat at a table with the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and considered developing a national model that could also be used at the regional level. Then, we started to study it.

Martin Fitzpatrick, Environmental Health Officer, Noise Pollution and Air Quality Monitoring Department, Dublin City Council, Ireland

Implement pilot projects for air quality legislation

The pilot project to implement air quality regulations brings together cities across Europe to better understand the advantages, challenges and needs of cities in applying air quality regulations to cities. ‘The EU and air quality problems are widespread. The pilot project is jointly managed by the European Commission DG Environment Department and the European Environment Agency. The cities participating in the project include Antwerp, Berlin, Dublin, Madrid, Malmo, Milan, Paris, Ploiesti, Plovdiv, Prague and Vienna. The results of the pilot project will be released in 2013.

More information

Dublin air quality

Public information portal

Martin Fitzpatrick is the environmental health officer in charge of the Noise Pollution and Air Quality Monitoring Department of Dublin City Council, Ireland. It is also the focal point in Dublin for a pilot project managed by the European Commission DG Environment and the European Economic Area (EEA), aimed at improving the application of air quality regulations. We asked him how the city of Dublin solves the health problems caused by poor air quality.

What are you doing to improve the air quality in Dublin and Ireland?

We believe that we have effectively solved the air quality problems in big cities. An example can illustrate this point well: a ban on the sale and sale of pitch (smoke) fuel was introduced in Dublin in 1990. Colleagues in medical research studied the effects of this decision and found that since 1990, Dublin has avoided 360 deaths per year.

However, medium-sized cities are still plagued by poor air quality, and the authorities are now considering new legislation to extend the ban on the sale of asphalt fuel to even smaller population centers.

In Ireland, the Ministry of Environment is the official agency responsible for air quality and related departments. At the same time, the (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency is its action agency. Regarding how to convey guidance on environmental policies to the level of local authorities, the respective roles of ministries and agencies are clearly defined.

What challenges does Dublin City Council face in the field of health? How do you act?

Dublin is the epitome of other big cities in the European Union. There are many common features in the problem to be solved. Obesity, cancer and cardiovascular problems are the main public health problems in the European Union including Ireland.

The council recognizes that much of the work done is related to public health. A notable example is our project linking air quality with public participation. The project was carried out with the EU Joint Research Center a few years ago. Taking benzene (a carcinogenic air pollutant) into consideration, the “personnel project” was held in six European cities. After receiving a large number of volunteer requests through national radio programs, we turned these people into walking and talking air quality controllers. They wear benzene badges so that they can track their exposure to the pollutant on any given day. Then, we looked at their air quality levels and the impact of their daily behavior on their health.

All volunteers received replies about the collected data. An interesting anecdote of this project is the unexpected conclusion that if you want to reduce your exposure to carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, you need to avoid frying bacon! A volunteer who worked on a grill in a local cafe reportedly had high exposure levels.

The serious aspect of this anecdote is that we need to examine the comprehensive interaction of pollutants in indoor and outdoor environments.

Can you give an example of an Irish initiative to improve indoor air quality?

An obvious example is the smoking ban in 2004. Ireland was the first country in the world to ban smoking in the workplace. This ban allows us to focus on the subject of occupational exposure while improving air quality.

As an interesting side effect that is difficult to predict, dry cleaning is particularly an industry affected by the ban. The turnover of these companies has been declining since 2004 due to the smoking ban. Therefore, unexpected effects may sometimes occur.

How does your organization notify citizens?

Informing citizens is an important part of our actions and daily work. The Dublin City Council produces an annual report summarizing the air quality of the previous year. These reports are all available online. The (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency also has an air quality monitoring network, which shares information with citizens and local authorities.

Another example is unique to Dublin. It is a project launched this year called Dublin (Dublinked), which collects and publishes information held by the Security Council. This can be data generated by local authorities, private companies that provide services in the city, or residents. The European Commission pointed out in its 2009 letter that the value of reusing public sector information is estimated at 27 billion euros. This is one of the measures taken by the City Council to restart the economy.

Dublin has participated in air quality pilot projects along with other European cities. How does Dublin get involved?

At the invitation of the European Economic Area and the European Commission, Dublin City Council also participated. We believe this project is an opportunity to share best practice models and learn from sharing meaningful experiences.

During the project, we noticed the progress of other cities in establishing emission inventories and establishing air quality models. This prompted the Dublin City Council to make progress on these tasks. However, we quickly realized that it would not be very convenient if only the Council considered the emission inventory and created an air quality model. So we sat at a table with the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and considered developing a national model that could also be used at the regional level. Then, we started to study it.

Martin Fitzpatrick, Environmental Health Officer, Noise Pollution and Air Quality Monitoring Department, Dublin City Council, Ireland

Implement pilot projects for air quality legislation

The pilot project to implement air quality regulations brings together cities across Europe to better understand the advantages, challenges and needs of cities in applying air quality regulations to cities. ‘The EU and air quality problems are widespread. The pilot project is jointly managed by the European Commission DG Environment Department and the European Environment Agency. The cities participating in the project include Antwerp, Berlin, Dublin, Madrid, Malmo, Milan, Paris, Ploiesti, Plovdiv, Prague and Vienna. The results of the pilot project will be released in 2013.

More information

Dublin air quality

Public information portal