Mal O’Hara calls for urgent action on deadly air pollution

Wednesday May 2 2018

Green Party rep Mal O’Hara has called for urgent action on air quality after the World Health Organisation revealed that recommended particulate limits have been breached in Belfast, Armagh and Derry.

All three cities have failed tests for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns across that have been linked to heart disease and premature death.

Exposure to the particles, known as PM2.5s, should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to the WHO.

Annual mean levels in Belfast reached 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2013 and 11 in 2014. In Derry levels reached 11 in 2013 and 2015, and in in Armagh the WHO reported levels of 13 in 2013, 14 in 2014 and 10 in 2015.

Meanwhile, Armagh has also breached the limits for PM10  particles, which are not supposed to exceed 20 μg/m3. In 2014 annual mean levels in the city reached 21.

“I would like to say I was surprised, but I’m not,” North Belfast rep Mal O’Hara said.

“These particles can penetrate deeply into the respiratory tract and are linked to increasing mortality from respiratory infections and diseases, lung cancer, and some cardiovascular diseases.

“Transport emissions are a huge issue across Belfast and it is time we moved towards more sustainable transport solutions.

 “It is vital that measures to tackle congestion in our cities should not be watered down. We must do everything in our power to encourage people to switch from cars to greener solutions, such as public transport, walking and cycling, which will also deliver major health benefits.

“The human and financial cost of doing nothing is huge – more than 500 deaths in Northern Ireland per year are attributed to air pollution. This represents more deaths per year than road traffic collisions and passive smoking combined.

“Deaths from air pollution-related disease cost the NHS over £20bn per year – that’s nearly 1/5th of the overall budget.

“We need the traditional parties to come together, to form an Executive and deliver a budget so that these life and death issues can be tackled.”

Figures can be found in the latest update of the WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database