A new report has found that seventy lives a year could be saved across Cork city and county if authorities throughout the island adopt international guidelines on air pollution.
The major all-island assessment reveals that around 2,600 premature deaths can be attributed to air pollution – 1,700 in the Republic and 900 in Northern Ireland – annually.
In Cork city and county, the data shows that 200 premature deaths a year are linked to dirty air, with 85 people dying from heart disease as a result of air pollution.
The World Health Organisation recommends air quality guideline levels for harmful particulate matter, largely caused by the burning of solid fuels, of 5 micrograms per cubic metre - but the level in County Cork is 8.1 micrograms.
The study, Air Pollution and Mortality on the Island of Ireland, was launched by Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.
The report was commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland and compiled by experts from Queen’s University Belfast and Technological University Dublin.
Heart charities are calling on both governments to collaborate to improve air quality across the whole island.
said Irish Heart Foundation CEO, Tim Collins.
“This report estimates that there could be almost 1,000 fewer premature deaths per year attributable to air pollution on the island of Ireland if we are to achieve fine particulate matter pollution levels in line with the updated 2021 WHO guideline level.
“We hope that decision-makers on the island will utilise it to move forward with bold action on air pollution to protect our health,” he added.
Mr Collins called for an all-island strategy to make the WHO guidelines enforceable and help for households experiencing fuel poverty to lessen their reliance on solid fuels to heat their homes.
“Air pollution does not respect borders, therefore, to truly improve our air quality, governments must work together with co-ordinated policy interventions and legislation to protect our health,” he said.
Environment, Climate and Communications Minister, Eamon Ryan, welcomed the report. “There are no safe levels of air pollution, and taking into account all its negative effects, the onus is on us to move towards the new WHO guidelines,” he said.