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27 Nov 2021

Air quality testing to get underway in Offaly town

Air quality testing to get underway in Offaly town

Air quality testing to get underway in Offaly town

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started a three-year project that will improve the level of air quality information available to the public and policymakers in Ireland. One Offaly town will be part of the project, entitled LIFE Emerald - 'Emissions Modelling and Forecasting of Air in Ireland.' It will be part-funded by the EU LIFE Programme.  

As part of the project, the EPA and University College Cork (UCC) are working with Offaly County Council’s Digital Offaly project to conduct measurements of air quality in Edenderry. The measurements will be made using air quality sensors deployed in various locations throughout the town. The Digital Offaly communications network, established with the support of Cellnex, will provide connectivity for the measurement campaign. 

LIFE Emerald will develop national air quality forecasts and models using Irish and European data from a number of sources, such as air quality measurements, weather, traffic, industrial emissions, geographical, and citizen science projects. 

The measurements in Edenderry will focus on Particulate Matter and Nitrogen Dioxide, two pollutants that have significant health impacts in Ireland. The data collected will provide results for the national forecasting and modelling system.  

Pat Byrne, EPA Programme Manager said: "LIFE Emerald will provide a national three-day air quality forecast for Ireland. While being an important health and air quality resource for all, this will be even more impactful for those of us who are particularly affected by poor air quality. This will enable everyone to make informed decisions about their daily activities and plan in advance. The daily walk, run or trip to the shops can be planned and undertaken based on the forecasted air quality in your local area. The air quality measurements from Edenderry will provide key data for the LIFE Emerald project." 

Air pollution can seriously impact people’s health, particularly those suffering from respiratory disease and ailments such as asthma. Particulate Matter (PM) are fine particles in our air and are one of the main air pollutants in Ireland. Higher amounts of particulate matter in our air increase the likelihood of developing breathing and heart related diseases.  

It is estimated that there are 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland each year due to particulate matter air pollution. Burning of solid fuels for home heating is the main source of particulate matter in Irish towns and cities. The EPA encourages people to consider alternative heating systems, to reduce the level of particulate matter. 

Stig Hellebust, the project lead from UCC, said: "The EMERALD project will bring important new insights into the dynamics of air pollution. It will help develop the science of air monitoring, but more importantly, it will ultimately help to improve air quality in Irish towns and villages. We at the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at UCC are very excited to be part of this project with the EPA and to be working with Edenderry Municipal District and Offaly County Council on monitoring air quality locally." 

At a recent meeting of Edenderry Municipal District, councillors strongly welcomed the Emerald project to Edenderry which builds on work already undertaken in the Offaly County Council & Cellnex ‘e-denderry IoT – Internet of Things | LoRaWAN Connectivity | Smart Town Technology project’; and look forward to updates on how Edenderry has assisted the LIFE Emerald project, in due course.  

The Asthma Society of Ireland is a partner in the LIFE Emerald project. Sarah O'Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said: "Ireland has the highest incidence rate of asthma in Europe with one in ten children and one in thirteen adults developing the condition - with 890,000 people likely to develop asthma in their lifetimes. The Asthma Society welcomes the opportunity to be part of the LIFE Emerald  Project as the link between clean air and improved population health is clear.” 

The EPA and Offaly County Council have also cooperated on installing permanent air quality monitoring stations in Banagher, Birr, Edenderry, and Tullamore. Real-time air quality results for these stations and the Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) are available on the EPA website at www.airquality.ie. The LIFE  Emerald project will model the air quality data for the areas beyond the monitoring stations.  

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