Cork City Council issue update on Leeside air pollution

Cork City Council issue update on Leeside air pollution
PurpleAir recorded poor air quality in Cork city in recent weeks.

Cork City Council has moved to reassure concerned citizens over the level of air pollution in Cork city.

The Council has released a statement about air quality in Cork city after reports emerged that Cork was experiencing some of the worst air pollution globally. 

PurpleAir, a real-time air quality monitoring system, recorded the level of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 at 430 on the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index scale in Cork in recent days.

The air quality monitoring website described such levels as "hazardous".

Since the winter months, many have raised concerns about the level of air pollution these PurpleAir monitors are recording, which is linked to people burning solid fuel in fires to heat their homes.

However, the City Council say that these PurpleAir monitors' accuracy is still being tested.

These low-cost PurpleAir monitors are part of a trial study conducted by the City Council and UCC's Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry.

Currently, the accuracy of the sensors are being tested against the more expensive and specialised Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality monitoring stations.

The EPA has four large-scale air monitoring stations in the city: Heatherton Park on the South Douglas Road, Tramore Valley Park's entrance on the South Link Road, CIT and UCC.

In their statement, the City Council said: "Cork City Council has installed a network of air quality monitors at various locations across the council’s functional area.

"The sensors are measuring Particulate Matter (PM), i.e. small fine-scale dust particles that are among other things, the by-products of burning solid fuel. The sensors in use were purchased from Purple Air and the data is streamed live on the PurpleAir homepage.

"The data from the particulate matter units are intended for use as indicators of air quality only and provide a trend for the data. Together with air quality specialists in UCC, the City Council is currently evaluating the accuracy of these sensors. 

"Early data received indicates that under certain atmospheric conditions the purple air sensors are significantly over-estimating the particulate matter count. These sensors will continue to be evaluated throughout 2020 to ascertain if a correction factor needs to be applied to the data going forward."

The City Council are advising Corkonians to look at the EPA's monitors for more detailed data. 

"In the interim, for a more accurate picture of air quality in Cork, we would direct interested parties to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website where data from four locations within Cork city are available: http://www.epa.ie/air/quality/data/."

"These sites host a range of sensors measuring parameters such as Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Ozone. They are intended for use as reference sensors and provide more accurate results.

"Users of the Purple Air (PM) network are also encouraged to look at the air quality sensor readings hosted on the EPA website for comparison purposes.

"The City Council has updated its website to include additional air quality information with relevant links to reports and data associated with air quality: https://www.corkcity.ie/en/council-services/services/environment/air-quality/."

Air quality sensors measure the level of particulate matter in the air. Particulate matter occurs when people burn solid fuel in fires.

The smaller the particulate matter, the more it can harm health. This is because it can be breathed in by the lungs and enter our organs, including the heart and brain.

Those with existing respiratory problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have a greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects.

The measurement tool used to calculate air quality is the US Environmental Protection Agency's 'Air Quality Index'. This is a number used to represent how polluted the air is.

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