CORK’S public should take note of the air quality in their area before engaging in outdoor activities, a UCC expert has said.
“People should be made aware of whether or not they can safely push a pram or go for a run or play a game of football without damaging themselves on a cold winter’s evening when many coal, wood and peat fires are being lit,” said John Sodeau, emeritus professor of Chemistry at University College Cork (UCC) with research interests in atmospheric chemistry and aerobiology.
Prof Sodeau has been professor of physical chemistry at UCC since 1998 and he is founding Director of the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry.
He has been highlighting the dangers of air pollution for years but said Cork City is ahead of the game in respect to providing information on pollution levels in the area.
There has been a collaboration between the council, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the CRACLab over the last two years to construct an air pollutant measurement network in order to inform the public about dangers in the air we breathe.
A Twitter account, @CorkAirQuality, tweets every three hours from 6am to 11pm, the current air quality in Cork City according to purple air monitors installed across the city.
“And so with a simple red, amber and green visual, it is now possible to provide almost real-time advice to people who might want to do some physical activity,” Prof Sodeau said.
“Particularly to advise whether you should go outdoors or not,” he added.
The air expert said that there is a dashboard for the public to access on the council website or graphs at the EPA website indicating colour-coded warnings and real-time measurements of particulate levels.
Mr Sodeau stressed the measurements are not able to to provide information on a house- by-house basis; rather a general area.
“The traffic lights themselves are a real indication of air quality but they do not give quantitative numbers for actual concentrations at one specific time,” he said.
The professor said that air quality information should be published as regularly and as imperatively as weather updates, in newspapers and on the news, describing the need for such a service as a must.
“The technology is there and it can be done,” he said.