At a Cork Co. Council meeting in September Cllr Liam Quaide of the Green Party highlighted the need for air-pollution monitoring across the region. Cllr Quaide was responding to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency in July which identified dangerous levels of air pollution in congested parts of Dublin. This, he said, “raised serious concern for public health in general, and in particular for vulnerable groups such as children, older adults and people with respiratory conditions such as asthma”.
Cllr Quaide pointed to the lack of air pollution monitoring stations in Cork Co, saying “the first step is to simply assess the scale of health hazard locally. We need an extensive network of air quality monitoring stations in areas of recurring congestion such as the main streets of our towns and villages, and other traffic blackspots such as Castleredmond in Midleton and around Castlemartyr”.
According to the EPA 1,500 people die prematurely in Ireland each year due to poor air quality. This is mainly caused by solid fuel burning and traffic congestion.
Cllr Quaide proposed that Cork Co. Council invite in representatives of the EPA to County Hall so EPA "we can advocate for the development of proper monitoring all over Cork County, greater accessibility of this information". From there, her added, we can develop a mitigation programme".
Cllr Noel Collins seconded the motion, pointing out that he had recently attended a health conference at which experts estimate 8.8m deaths worldwide every year are due to air pollution. Cllr Quaide's motion was supported by all parties and Independent Councillors.
Cllr Quaide went on to say, “measuring and addressing air pollution are longstanding priorities of the Green Party. We are particularly concerned about the situation outside schools. Last week Prof John Sodeau of the Chemistry dept in UCC reinforced these concerns. He commented on a spike in air pollution levels in Cobh following the resumption of the school term, pointing out that children are particularly at risk when the cars are at the kerb outside the school because they are not very tall and get the full force of the pollution in their faces. An asthmatic child is particularly at risk of developing respiratory problems, diabetes and heart problems in the future."
According to Consultant Sir David King, who advises the British Lung Foundation, children travelling in the back of cars in traffic are dangerously exposed to exhaust fumes. King also pointed out that driving an electric car does not protect children from this hazard: “You may be driving a cleaner vehicle but your children are sitting in a box collecting toxic gases from all the vehicles around you.”
According to Cllr Quaide, “despite the fact that air pollution kills many more people per year than road accidents, the problem has largely been ignored by our government. As a result, public awareness of this silent killer is poor. If our government were to face this problem it would follow that they'd have to radically upgrade our public transport and cycling infrastructure. They would also have to undertake a massive retrofitting programme for our housing stock and mandate the installation of clean heating systems in new houses.
In so doing we would be making serious advances on our climate action commitments as well as cleaning up our air. Our government has resisted these developments time and again. Here in Cork Co. Council we need to use what powers we have to get a proper assessment of air pollution in the region. We have a major lack of monitoring stations. We need many more fixed stations to track air pollution over time. We also need mobile stations for schools and other areas.” Cllr Dan Boyle of the Green Party introduced a similar Council motion to increase air quality monitoring in Cork city.