Air Pollution Bill, 1986: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I spoke at considerable length on this previously and if everybody takes as long as I did, the debate could go on for a very long time. I have a special concern in this area and for half a lifetime I have been giving advice on a national scale with regard to energy conservation, in particular, the fireplace in society and in the home. Developments over the last 20 years have been of major importance in this area. There have been improvements with regard to refinements in the fireplace, the details of the flue, under floor ventilation and provision of air for combustion. Originally according to the specification, invariably the flue had two or more bends; now the theory is that the flue should be straight, to give one illustration. There have been many refinements in regard to the fireplace and the efficiency of the fire. Suddenly, a question mark is placed after the fire in the home, which is unfortunate.

Some people believe this Bill is a smokescreen. I do not necessarily go all the way with that belief. Nevertheless, the Bill is reacting to EC pressure. The Government do not believe there is an inherent necessity for it.

In introducing the Bill the Minister said that heretofore implementation of EC directives was by administrative means. Through this Bill we will now have statutory provision to comply with the directives. That will not work miracles although there are those who seem to think it will. We have sufficient legislation to deal with the problem of air pollution, except in the area of traffic pollution.

I mentioned before the different areas where we have statutory control but do not seem to have solved the problems. One of these areas is with regard to the Local Government (Water Pollution) (No. 1) Act, 1977. That legislation is very comprehensive and many people felt when it was introduced that water pollution problems were over and done with, but, in fact, as the House would agree, even this year we have had many serious water pollution problems. Indeed, in many cases local authorities whom we expect to oversee the working of this Act and carry it through, are the culprits. The Factories Acts are very comprehensive, yet the number of accidents continues to increase. The Litter Control Act has done very little for our problem as those who travel through rural areas would admit. Earlier in the year it was proposed to increase the fines for litter control but this will not solve the problem. I could quote many other cases where legislation will not deal with the problems. In effect, what I am saying is that those who think that this Bill is the answer to all our pollution problems will be very disappointed.

We have missed out with regard to administrative means. Over the year the problems as they arose could have been dealt with in various ways. For example, with regard to heating, and home heating in particular, everybody is now aware that enclosed stoves are far more efficient than the open fireplace. Yet there was never any attempt at departmental level to encourage the use of enclosed stoves. Grants would have been a very effective way of doing this. We have new house grants and house improvement grants, but there should have been a special grant for the provision of enclosed stoves in houses. It was very shortsighted not to have provided such a grant. Even with the introduction of the last house improvement grant by the Government which was very worth while and welcomed by everybody, this problem was not dealt with. That was the one area where people could have been enticed to get away from the open fireplace and use enclosed stoves. The provision of advisory services would have helped in this regard. I know it is very expensive to consult heating engineers but in the long term it is well worth while.

The IIRS do a very worth while job in this regard and I must commend Hotline for the help they give. It is unfortunate that this service is closed for a considerable part of the year. The service is needed all year round. Many people would be building or rebuilding houses in the summertime which is a period when they would want information. Hotline should be available, too, on free phone. This might be considered as another area where help could be given.

Solid fuel has become very popular on a national scale. On page 84 of the latest statistics from An Foras Forbartha, Private House Building in Ireland, 1976-1983, with regard to central heating details in estate houses it states that solid fuel usage with radiator systems increased from 13 per cent in 1976, to 31 per cent in 1978, to 37 per cent in 1979, to 52 per cent in 1980, to 60 per cent in 1981, to 69 per cent in 1982 and to 75 per cent in 1983. There was a steady increase all the way.

On the last occasion, I spoke about natural gas. It appears that the sulphur dioxide problem is decreasing because of the increased use of natural gas. I understand from the newspapers that the life expectancy of Kinsale Gas is 20 years. I would appreciate if the Minister of State would give some indication as to what is expected to happen after that 20 year period. Will we be hoping for the miracle of another find and if none materialises, what will then be the situation? From my experience natural gas is very commendable from the point of view of efficiency. We know that no fuel is absolutely free from having some polluting effect. It is nihilistic to argue that we can have absolutely clean air. We can have clean air if we have no industry, no transport, no fireplaces and, above all, if we have no people. All of these cause pollution, people especially. There are many who express the view that this would be a far better country for tourism and for the environment if we had fewer people but we should realise that the country, the environment, the land and everything we have is for the people. It is from that point of view we should proceed.

Industry is the great pollutor. One cause of the decline in pollution levels in England is the decline in industrial production. As I said on the last occasion, we have the same situation in Dublin. Dublin port is almost free of pollution and has been so for a long time precisely because it is free of industry. I visited the site and examined the situation there when we were dealing with the legislation for the development of Dublin port.

The Irish coal industry accept that there should be research and that where the conclusions are that coal is a problem, appropriate action should be taken. There should have been a White Paper to allow interested individuals and groups to participate in drafting the legislation.

The Government as a corollary have a duty to consult these people. There was not even a Green Paper in regard to this important matter and the Bill, in reality, was sprung on the people. The coal industry is an important one and it has spent much money. As I said on the last occasion, I appreciate the help I received from the coal industry representatives when they made representations to us.

I mentioned before the problem regarding car fumes. In this city and all urban areas, cars that are not properly serviced are spewing out poison at a level which is dangerous to those of us breathing in the air. The Bill does nothing regarding this problem. This is unfortunate and it is a serious defect in the Bill. People who do not ensure that their vehicle is in good mechanical condition are polluting our streets. This is a criminal act and yet they remain scot free while a person lighting a fire in a smokeless zone will be committing an offence and will be criminalised for it.

I also mentioned before that this Bill does not deal with noise control, which is another serious defect. For enjoyment of the environment it is most important that statutory provision be made to control the problem of noise. This is dealt with in "The State of the Environment". I shall quote one short paragraph from page 159 in the introduction to the chapter on noise:

While all noise is sound, not all sound is noise. Sound becomes noise only when the listener finds it objectionable. Noise is a major environmental factor adversely affecting the quality of people's lives. More than that, noise also poses a threat to health, such as impairment of hearing and interference with sleep or with recovery in hospital.

High urbanisation, high industrialisation and high mobility are major reasons for the continuing increase of noise. Without some controls, noise will increase not only in urban areas, but it will spread to areas where peace and quite are at a premium, such as tourist regions, forests, beaches and residential districts.

In Ireland, noise pollution has not featured prominently in the ongoing environmental debate. This situation is likely to change because noise levels are increasing and affecting more and more people. However, noise is coming to be recognised as an unjustifiable interference with ordinary human comfort and well-being. In this regard international organisations, in particular the EEC and OECD, are promoting a greater awareness among member countries of the growing problems of noise and of the need for effective measures to mitigate it.

It is unfortunate that in framing this Bill noise control was not included and I would welcome the Minister's assurance to the House that such control will be included. We have an overall serious situation with airborne and disco noise. There are complaints about problems consequent on disco attendance and problems are created because these noises seem to drive young people into a frenzy. Many feel that these youngsters are on a "high" from which they do not descend perhaps until the following morning. Something could be done about this problem here.

We also have a problem in some areas with regard to the nuisance caused by smell. In my own town a truck passes by quite regularly loaded with animal products and leaves a smell which is a serious nuisance for hours afterwards. Not alone are tourists affected by this, but also people living and working in the area. It is difficult to have these trucks covered but provision should be made in a Bill of this kind to ensure that trucks transporting products of this nature are properly covered. If necessary grants should be provided for concerns of this kind to have proper trucks.

I have mentioned many times before crude sewage from this city being diverted out to Dublin Bay, causing a serious environmental problem. The Minister could also include some provision in the Bill to deal with this serious problem.

The pollution caused by smoke and so on follow on the energy situation. Conservation is very necessary and the Government are not doing nearly enough in this regard. There is potential from solar energy, wave energy and air energy and we have slipped up in all those areas. Solar energy in this country is negligible. Some years ago kits were available in builders' providers to be erected on the roofs of buildings but due to the low demand I do not think it is possible to get these any more.

I have referred many times in this House to the potential of air energy. Indeed, anybody who visited the energy exhibition at Milton Keynes of a few weeks past would realise the importance of heat conservation and the landscaping of shrubs and trees to give shelter to houses and other developments. A considerable amount of money is being spent on publicity. There should be some attempt to do likewise in this country.

With regard to section 14 of the Bill, the home should be inviolate. Section 14 (1) reads:

Subject to subsection (2), an authorised person shall, for any purpose connected with this Act, be entitled, at all reasonable times, to enter into any premises and to bring therein such other persons or equipment as he may consider necessary for the purpose.

Personal liberty is the great privilege of a democracy, and I do not agree with that section.

Traffic in the Dublin region causes a very serious pollution problem even though it is ameliorated because of the recession and no growth, but with new growth it will become a very urgent problem again. Serious consideration should be given to non-polluting transport such as an underground railway system. This is under serious discussion at present so I will not develop it any further. An underground railway system would give work; it would revitalise the city centre; it would reduce the sense of isolation in suburbs, particularly in Tallaght. From Tallaght to the centre of the city a link could be provided to the DART. CIE have plans for this and are buying up land off Dame Street. All this should be approached in broad terms because there are many benefits.

To single out the domestic hearth as being the cause of the problem is grossly unreasonable. When the Minister introduced the Bill she gave a very balanced speech on it. Those involved in the coal industry have been very open and anxious to co-operate and would still like to talk with environmentalist groups. Perhaps the Minister feels some benefit would be gained from that. A total ban on coal sales in Dublin would cost hundreds of jobs, at least 600 directly in the coal industry, and as many again in selective jobs. It would cause extreme hardship. Hypothermia deaths occur disproportionately in smokeless zone areas. In cold weather more people die from hypothermia than ever died from smoke. I believe coroners are unwilling to report deaths as having been caused by hypothermia because they feel they are making a social comment.

The report on acid rain is very comprehensive and it is appropriate that it should come before the House at this time. Looking at the list of members of the joint committee I see that the late Deputy Cathal Coughlan was a member. I lament his untimely passing and say sincerely, ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I protest that the Department of Energy did not send a representative to a meeting of the sub-committee. There is no reason given but on page 2 a short paragraph reads as follows:

The Department of Energy declined to send representatives to a meeting of the Sub-Committee. The Joint Comittee wishes to express its regret at this development in view of the longstanding mutual working arrangements the Joint Committee has fostered with Government Departments.

Why did the Department of Energy not send a representative to meet the sub-committee? This House is entitled to know the reason. Last week with other Members I deplored the fact that the editor of a Sunday paper would not attend a meeting of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights but it is far more deplorable that Government Department would not co-operate with this important committee. I would like the Minister in replying to this debate to comment on that aspect.

It appears that acid rain is not a major problem here and neither is it a problem to which this country is contributing in any great measure, yet throughout the country I hear reports of ancient monuments, Celtic crosses for example, in exposed areas where serious deterioration has been observed over the last number of years. Many people feel this could be attributed to acid rain, but from my reading of this report it would appear that this is not so.

I agree with the conclusion of the committee that this country should co-operate with the EC directives. In conclusion, I will read out a very brief paragraph from page 58 of the report:

The Joint Committee feels that Ireland has a duty to the citizens of the Community not to contribute to atmospheric pollution. Countries such as Denmark and Germany are making serious efforts to deal with acid rain. Our best protection against the threat of transboundary pollution from mainland Europe is to comply fully with all the Community measures on air pollution when implemented and to insist that all Member States, particularly the UK, do likewise.

In order that we would be in a position to insist that other members play their part, we in turn should play ours.

I welcome this comprehensive Bill, despite the shortcomings I have mentioned. It could be considered major legislation. I hope it will have the effect which some people think it will have. I hope that when we come to Committee Stage, the Minister will agree to include some amendments and to include some other areas which will only enhance the Bill, for example with regard to noise control.

I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Avril Doyle, on a comprehensive and clear presentation to this House some months ago on the introduction of this legislation. In a 21 page document, the Minister set out extremely clearly all aspects relating to the need for the legislation and went into great detail with regard to the various items and matters in the Bill.

At this point, we are talking about the environment as a resource. The environment is made up of rain, soil and air. We must recognise that these various components are affected by developments in society and in business and by developments generally. The very fact that human beings exist means that there is an infringement into these areas of environment. Obviously with an increase in the population in the world, with greater organisation and more technology there will be greater pressures on environmental areas. It would be ludicrous on the part of anybody to suggest that modern situations do not require up-to-date legislation the same as they require up-to-date practices in other ways. That, as I perceive it, is the background. We must recognise that times are changing and that therefore there is a need for a change in legislation also.

The Minister has pointed out the need for a balanced approach in regard to environmental control. Other Senators have referred to that already. A balanced approach is what is required. Nowhere is this more important than in relation to the development of industry and employment, whether agricultural-based or otherwise. It must be accepted that it is not possible to have perfectly clean air. There is a trade-off between an acceptable quality of air and an acceptable volume of industrial and commercial progress and employment. That is one of the facts of life that must be accepted and understood fully. Those who ignore that fact are, in my view, closing their eyes to reality. An old saying attributed to a Kerryman is that you cannot live on scenery. It is true that modern science and modern progress have brought in their wake, and will continue to bring in their wake, certain side effects that need attention from time to time.

The Minister referred specifically in her speech — and this is an issue that is also outlined clearly in the Bill — to the question of the burning of straw. Reference was made in the Bill to the need for control in this area. Even on this issue the question of a proper balance must be considered. For example, we must examine the question of the incidence of excessive straw burning in rural Ireland. The question we might ask ourselves is whether it is really such a problem as to warrant legislative intervention. For many farmers the burning of straw is the most efficient method of disposing of an unwanted by-product of their agricultural activities. Additional costs will be imposed where we unnecessarily restrict this practice. Given the pressures which the Irish agricultural community already face, the question may well be asked as to whether the prohibition of the burning of straw is an appropriate response to that problem. I take straw as an example of general disposal matters in farm activities because straw is mentioned specifically. There are a number of other matters also such as burning of waste from fences that may be cut down, the burning of rushes from low-lying land and various other things of a waste nature that would necessitate disposal in a manner similar to the burning of straw.

While the intention of the Minister is that there be a broad and correct approach to this matter and that nobody would be unduly penalised, an over-zealous official from the Department of the Environment could find it possible to impose very unjust and severe penalties on individual farmers and persons who might be seen to violate this part of the Bill. It is for that reason that I intend, on Committee Stage, to introduce certain amendments that I hope the Minister will agree with and which I do not think will significantly change matters but at the same time will provide a safeguard for people who could otherwise be in a very awkward position. For example, if it is decided to prohibit the burning of straw we must ask how the law is to be enforced? The law presumably can only be enforced where there has been a continuous episode of straw burning in a particular region or locality. Obviously if one precludes the disposal of straw by means of burning one is entitled to ask what alternative there might be for getting rid of a by-product such as straw.

Straw is recognised as a form of biomass which could be used in power stations to generate electricity. One could justifiably ask whether thought could be given to the setting up of a State agency to use straw along these lines.

These kinds of issues would demonstrate a fairly complex situation. It may be something to which there is an easy and simple answer. At the same time all those areas need to be explored. There is the long-established tradition of the burning of heather and gorse. This is a form of control sanctified, as it were, by long usage. It has its positive as well as its negative aspects. The process of burning, as we know, enriches the soil and renders fields more fertile, apart altogether from being a highly efficient method of controlling the spread of unwanted gorse and waste material generally. It is reasonable to assume that urban dwellers may be offended by the burning of gorse, straw and other materials of that sort, but there are sound agricultural reasons for farmers opting for this method of disposal and control. We are not only talking about disposal, we are also talking about controlling gorse and the growth of other unwanted vegetation. This must be borne in mind. For that reason the State and the Minister acting for the State in this instance through this Bill should move with the necessary caution.

There are a number of other aspects with regard to the matter of straw which one could talk about, but I do not think it necessary to do so. The burning of straw is confined essentially in this country along a line from County Louth along the eastern seaboard to County Wexford and the extent of it inland is to a depth of one or two counties. It is more substantial in a few counties, but the total area in any year will be perhaps 20,000 acres. We are talking about the burning of winter cereal straw, so about 20,000 acres is the amount of straw burning that we are talking about. Obviously, in years of scarcity of roughage like last year, little or no straw was burned because it was a valuable product and not something to be disposed of in this way.

With greater intensity of farming, if farmers are to maximise EC benefits in the best possible way they are expected to double and treble their output. For that reason they have no choice but to have fairly substantial amounts of this product to dispose of. Rather than straw, gorse or other waste materials to which I have referred burning and being a threat to the environment, they would be a greater threat to hedgerows and plantations and the like. That aspect should be monitored carefully.

A great deal more can be said about that, but I would like to say a word of caution to the Minister on this question of straw burning. It has wider ramifications altogether than just the disposal of straw, whether it be 20,000 acres or whatever. Its ramifications could affect the disposal generally in farms, and I submit it would have little effect on polluting the atmosphere. Preventing persons doing this sort of thing could be very serious for the individuals concerned and could be very costly.

The Bill has many aspects to which one would like to draw attention. One that strikes one readily is the fact that some figures are not as up to date as they might be particularly as they relate to the Dublin area which is probably the most important area in regard to air pollution. About one third of our population reside there. The figures for Dublin Corporation, if brought up to date, would be of enormous help.

This Bill is very important and no effort must be spared on the part of all concerned whether it be a corporation authority, county council or whatever, to ensure that whatever data are needed are made available to those who will assimilate them in the correct manner. I have mentioned Dublin. It is encouraging to know that the quality of air in the greater Dublin area has improved dramatically over the past year. It is important that we recognise this point and identify with it. Smoke levels during last winter were 60 per cent below the EC limit values and the number of local excedents was reduced to two in the Ballyfermot area where it is understood domestic smoke may be the source of the problem. I mention that because Ballyfermot has been highlighted in the past in this context. That sort of scenario would throw some doubt on the sometimes very exaggerated type of comment from certain environmentalists in relation to the quality of Dublin's air. The reasons the quality of Dublin's air has improved are complex. They include a decline in industrial activity in Dublin to some extent which obviously is to be regretted. They include a spread of the population from the inner city to the outer peripheral areas of Dublin, in other words, the suburban areas of the city, and that is a move forward.

Of course, there is also the whole question of the choice of fuels. Now a wider choice of fuel is available to people, and that is important. Also in conjunction with the question of fuel there has been a great advance in greater efficiency in fuel burning appliances which means less and less waste material emanating from the various burning appliances.

It could be asked whether the powers given under section 14, to which Senator Fitzsimons referred, to local government inspectors are correct. I tend to the view that probably they are going a little too far and perhaps overstep certain rights of individuals. I agree also that old people, young children or whoever should not be forced into having to supply information from time to time if they are accosted for it.

Another report we are asked to comment on is the report of the joint committee on acid rain which is taken in conjunction with this legislation on air pollution. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I am particularly concerned about the contribution of acid rain to air pollution and the consequent damage to our natural environment through precipitation. I am a member of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities who prepared the report on acid rain which is before us in association with the Air Pollution Bill. I expressed my deep concern about this matter in the course of our committee debates. While I am reminded of it by my colleague, Senator Fitzsimons, let me also pay tribute to my colleague on that committee, now departed, the late Deputy Cathal Coughlan. His contribution to the work of that committee was very substantial indeed and we regret his passing very much.

Acid rain is caused mainly by emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which are produced by the burning of fossil fuels especially coal and oil in power stations, industrial plants, motor vehicles and domestic heating appliances. These constituents react with moisture to produce, in effect, a diluted solution of sulphuric and nitric acids which may have severe effects on the environment receiving such rainfall.

One of the main problems associated with acid rain is trans-boundary importation and exportation, in other words, the whole question of the flow by winds of the acid in the atmosphere. This has the effect of making some countries such as the Scandinavian countries net importers and countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy net exporters of sulphur dioxide. The impact of acid rain on natural and built environments has been devastating. Lakes become acidified, killing off fish and stocks. Forests have been devastated. Let me state at this point that we do not have a major problem with regard to acid rain. What I am talking about is the general effect acid rain in large quantities could have on the environment. I am not referring to this in so far as people might perceive it as something relating to an Irish scene. Agricultural crops can be affected through dry deposition of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Wild life is also threatened by acid rain as habitats change and acid sensitive species give way to acid tolerant ones.

The most challenging threat of all of acid rain is that posed to human health through contamination of drinking water. The ravages of acid rain are manifested by the damage it has inflicted on many of our public buildings throughout the world.

Ireland's contribution to trans-boundary air pollution is not significant but that does not mean we should be complacent about it. I was saying a moment ago that we do not have a problem of any consequence in this regard. Nevertheless we must guard against ever having a problem bordering on what I am referring to.

The newly commissioned electricity generating station at Moneypoint is the main focus of attention at the moment. Our committee — the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities — received conflicting evidence from the ESB and environmentalists about the possible consequences of emissions from Moneypoint. The cost of bringing Moneypoint into line with the proposed Council Directive on the limitations of emissions of pollutants into the air from large combustion plants could have serious consequences for electricity charges. On the other hand, economic growth must not ignore the consequences for our physical environment. Nobody in their sane senses could support and condone a suggestion that economic progress should supersede the general quality of life and the general wellbeing of the atmosphere.

The joint committee, in their report, endeavoured to reconcile these opposite concepts. We must take a long term view of environmental protection and not subordinate it to short term economic gain. In the European Community the importance of the environment has been formally acknowledged through the inclusion of a special subsection relating to it in the recent single European Act which incorporates amendments to the Treaty of Rome.

While the joint committee were critical of the ESB's reluctance to install flue gas desulphurisation plant nevertheless they acknowledged the board's sterling record on environmental protection. The pumped storage station at Turlough Hill in County Wicklow is good evidence of this. It would be a tragedy if at this stage the situation at Moneypoint were to spoil this fine track record. I urge the board to consider carefully the joint committee's recommendations.

In view of the social costs of atmospheric pollution, the joint committee made proposals as to how the costs of the installation to which I referred, FGD could be modified for the ESB, for example, with partial Exchequer funding.

We must not ignore the effects of low level polluting agents such as cars and domestic fires. In the report of the joint committee we recommend grant aid for natural gas conversion for private homes and industry. I do not want to talk for too long about the joint committee's report because the purpose of the joint committee is to short circuit detailed discussions on these matters.

I want to make reference to a recommendation in the report. I would like careful consideration to be given to the entire report. I recommend the report to those persons who may not have had an opportunity to examine it in detail. It is appropriate when talking about this report that I should place on record our appreciation in particular of the work of Senator Mary Robinson who put so much effort into the preparation of that report on acid rain and piloted it through the committee through many stormy and difficult sessions.

The Air Pollution Bill we are discussing here today in conjunction with the report on acid rain is a very comprehensive measure to provide a modern legislative framework for the control of air pollution in order to meet the requirements of EC Directives. More than that, it is an effort to protect ourselves against problems caused by modern science, technology and development. What is envisaged in this Bill gives significant power to local authorities with regard to air quality. I have no hesitation in supporting very fully what is put forward in that Bill, with some minor modifications. I believe that should be the view of this assembly.

I should like to make a few general remarks. We should look at the background. It was not, as we know, until after World War II that people became seriously concerned about the effect air pollution might have on health and the environment. The 1952 smog in London is the most quoted example of a severe air pollution episode when levels of air pollution contributed to over 4,000 excess deaths in that year from bronchitis, pneumonia and related diseases.

The 1957 Clean Air Act in the United Kingdom has brought about a reduction of smoke and sulphur dioxide to acceptable levels in most areas. There are two main types of emissions which are relevant and can be described under the headings of stationary and mobile emissions. The stationary sources are domestic, commercial, industrial buildings and power generating stations. Mobile sources would include aeroplanes, rail transportation, vehicles, road and maritime transport. Emissions can also be classified as natural or manmade. Natural sources would include wild fires, decomposition of organic matters, denitrification of fertilisers, sea spray and wind blown dust. Manmade sources would include combustion mining, quarrying, chemical and industrial processing and nuclear reactors.

It is relevant to refer to the effects of air pollution in a broad way. The kinds of effects known and suspected to be produced by air pollution can be grouped under three general headings: first, material damage meaning direct damage to structural metals, secondly, surface coatings, fabrics and other materials and, thirdly, a frequent and widespread effect of air pollution. The damage may be in the form of weight loss, loss in strength, fading, discoloration, loss of gloss, cracking and so on.

Agricultural damage is attributable to a large number of food, forage and ornamental crops which have been shown to be susceptible to air pollutants in other countries. Examples of damage range from various types of leaf damage, stunting of growth, decreased size and yield of fruits to destruction of flowers.

With regard to the health effects on humans, air pollution can produce fatalities particularly in population subgroups at risk such as the very young, the old and those with pre-existing chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Let us examine what are the major air pollutants. There has been reference in the House on quite a number of occasions to that of smoke. Smoke comes about from the combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal and peat and particularly from domestic fires but also from industrial, commercial, power generating and transport sources. Sulphur dioxide arises from combustion of sulphur containing fossil fuels, especially oil and coal, smelting of sulphur bearing ores and industrial processes. Hydrocarbons arise from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as motor vehicle exhausts and from stationary sources. Carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels mainly from motor exhausts but also from domestic fires. Cigarette smoke can give a high concentration of carbon monoxide indoors. Nitrogen oxides are relevant in this context and arise from motor vehicle exhausts, high temperature stationary combustions, atmospheric reactions, such as lightning and volcanic activity. Indoor sources include smoking and gas-fired appliances. Lead is another pollutant, added as tetraethyl lead to petrol to improve petrol quality, not an uncommon occurrence, and expelled from engines when that fuel is burned. It arises also from dust, lead and paint. I am talking about excesses in these various areas of pollution where it is most important that there be greater efficiency and thus less danger of pollution.

I have a lot of statistics with which I do not intend to bore the House except to demonstrate that sulphur dioxide, smoke and nitrogen oxides increased by 30 per cent, 9 per cent and 25 per cent respectively between 1972 and 1979. It is encouraging to note that such emission levels fell between the years 1980 and 1983, with the exception of smoke. Over the same period there was an overall increase in emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The value of 500 tonnes per year given for lead emissions related only to that emitted from petrol-driven vehicles. Data on industrial emissions are not available. The trend in sulphur dioxide emissions was determined largely by the demand for fuel oil in the power sector. In the case of smoke, the major factor was the level of consumption of solid fuel in the domestic sector. Road vehicles contributed a significant proportion of the total emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. I do not propose to dwell on the various comparisons made with many other countries.

Perhaps we should examine the legislation existing here relevant to the various areas of pollution to which I have referred. For example, there is the Alkali Works Regulations Act 1906. The provisions of that Act deal with emissions from specified industrial and chemical processes named in the Act which give rise to noxious or offensive gases. Special limits for acid emissions are laid down in a few instances. In general, the Act requires that the best practicable means must be used to minimise harmful emissions. All works named in the Act require annual registration with the Department of the Environment. There are also the control of atmospheric pollution regulations, 1970. These regulations, made under the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1962 and which came into operation in January 1972 restrict from fixed installations, excluding private dwellings, smoke of varying degrees of darkness and dust, grit, gas or fumes. These regulations set limits on the length of time during which dark or black smoke — as determined using a Ringlemann Smoke Chart — may be permitted from premises other than private dwellings. It should be noted that those regulations apply to smoke and other emissions from the curtilage or gardens of private dwellings and to buildings containing several private dwellings, having a furnace exceeding a certain capacity. I should say that the regulations are enforced by the sanitary authorities.

There was then the Local Government (Planning and Development Acts) 1963 to 1983. The planning Acts provide a statutory pollution control mechanism of a general nature. Conditions for the control of pollution may be attached to planning permissions for development. Conditions may also be imposed in the interests of avoiding or reducing air pollution from existing uses of land. The issue of compensation may arise in the latter case. The 1976 Act provides that an application involving a development for the purposes of any trade or industry which would emit polluting substances and cost more than £5 million must be accompanied by a study of the environmental implications of the development. Then there were the 1963 regulations regarding the construction, equipment and use of vehicles. These regulations were made under the Road Traffic Act, 1961, and provide — in respect of the maintenance of vehicles — that every vehicle shall be maintained in such a condition that there will not be emitted any smoke, visible vapour, grit, sparks, ashes, cinders or oil substances and that reasonable steps should be taken to prevent damage to persons or property as a result of such emissions. Enforcement of the Act is the responsibility of the Garda Síochána.

In addition, EC Directives relating to air quality apply as follows — I will give a synopsis: the EC directive on air quality limit values and guide values for sulphur dioxide and suspended particulates over annual winter and daily sampling periods; the limit values which became mandatory from 1 April 1983 are based on the World Health Organisation findings of dose-effect relationships between the two pollutants taken together. An EC Directive adopted in 1975 restricts the sulphur content of gas oils, used in domestic and small boilers, to be consumed in member states. An EC Directive adopted in June 1978 restricts the lead content of petrol. However, Ireland obtained a derogation until 1986. This was waived with the introduction of the European Communities (Lead Content of Petrol) Regulations, 1982, which brought Ireland in line with the levels applicable to other EC member states.

The EC is currently examining the implications of further reductions leading possibly to the elimination of lead in petrol. Under an EC Directive adopted in 1982 air quality standards for lead were set and member states were asked to take measures to ensure that five years after notification of the directive the concentrations should not be greater than the limit set. As of now, the EC has not adopted air quality standards for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides in general, although a draft directive on air quality standards has been adopted in principle.

I referred to many of these Acts and directives to highlight the fact that there is an awareness in this country, in Europe and in other parts of the world of the dangers and hazards of air pollution, including acid rain. What we are talking about today is a clear updating of regulations, legislation and so on. We should realise that progress, whether in industry, agriculture or any other sector brings with it certain responsibilities. If we ignore those responsibilities we will be doing so at our peril, particularly in the longer term. It is very irresponsible of anybody, particularly Governments, to ignore the effects of pollution on the quality of life in the long term. In my estimation, there is nothing that needs protecting and guarding so much as the quality of life. In this context we are talking about the quality of the atmosphere, keeping the atmosphere, water, rivers and so on, free and clean.

It is reasonable to say that perhaps we have a problem in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and other larger centres of population but generally speaking, we do not have a major air pollution problem and we must keep it that way. Speakers have referred to the serious situation in Dublin. Frankly, conditions in Dublin could be improved but I would not classify them as being extremely serious. I know air pollution is caused by a high volume of traffic, industrial development and so on and we must take all the appropriate steps not just to legislate for these things but to make sure that the appropriate control mechanisms are established. When new technology is being implemented we must ensure that we have a clear and definite way to dispose of any extra pollutant that comes into the atmosphere.

Before I conclude, there is a point to which I would like to make a very special reference and that is subsections 39 (2) and (3) of the Bill. I will discuss this further on Committee Stage. I suggest that under section 39 an effort should be made to identify the source of the pollutant. In my view, the effect of those addenda would be to require local authorities to identify clearly the source of the pollutant rather than to respond in a very generalised way. In my opinion, one of our greatest problems at present is the identification of the pollutant, in other words, the offending party, must be always clearly identified. There is no point in our making efforts to solve a problem if we cannot identify what is causing the problem.

I want to compliment the Minister on a very lucid presentation but I urge that a certain amount of caution be exercised to ensure that what is being introduced is correct, is warranted, is workable and, above all, is something that will solve a problem. That is extremely important. We should not hide or run away from something that may happen in the future but within the framework of this legislation we should attempt to solve potential difficulties that could arise in the future.

There was a song in "Hair", a rather risqué musical of the sixties, the first line of which was "Hello carbon monoxide, welcome sulphur dioxide, the air, the air is everywhere." It was something of a chant at that time particularly as the United States of America had suffered enormously through air and water pollution and the pop and rock songs of the time came back to this theme again and again. I am in a rather unusual position here. I can usually stand a safe distance back from whatever is the establishment, point a finger at them and denounce them with great delight but I am not in that comfortable position at present. My profession outside this House is that of a chemical engineer and because in that profession I educate and train people, or participate in their education and training in a small way, who become the operatives, technicians and managers of large-scale chemical process plants, I am in the position of being to a certain extent part of the establishment in this issue. My discomfort, in which no doubt the Leas-Chathaoirleach will take great delight, is going to be obvious in what I have to say.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I could not say it but the Senator has said it for me.

Pollution and the whole question of our environment runs up against the macho attitude. It is a bit like safety in industry, it is a bit like cigarette smoking. There is a sense in which you must pretend that it is only people with a slightly dubious attitude to life generally who get themselves worked up about environmental matters. The word "freak" is very easily stuck on the word "environmental" in the eyes of many people and yet it is inextricably linked with a view of ourselves and it is something that we do far too much in this country, and that is to apologise for our own uniqueness and our own individuality.

I am disappointed that both in the report of the joint committee and in much that has been said there is a presumption that there has to be some degree of tradeoff between industrial development and high quality environmental protection. I challenge those who say that to produce the evidence that there is any country in the world which has stifled industrial development because they went too far in the direction of environmental protection or to produce any correlation between the level of economic achievement of countries and the degree to which they have been prepared to sacrifice their environment.

I do not believe, for example, that the countries of Scandinavia, which have incidentally vastly more successful economies than that of our nearest neighbour and have had so for the last 40 years, have anything like the scale of air pollution that is regarded as acceptable and tolerable in the United Kingdom. They have managed to achieve extraordinarily high levels of economic development hand-in-hand with an obsessive concern for the quality of the environment, not just of air but of water and indeed the visual quality and the human quality of the urban environment.

Pollution and the whole issue of the environment is not just a question of measuring the concentrations of a long list of more or less toxic substances in the atmosphere or of measuring the concentration of another list of equally more or less toxic substances in our water supplies. It is a whole philosophy of how we relate to the world in which we live. There are assumptions being made about a correlation between the sacrifice we will have to make in terms of our environment and the jobs we can create.

There are large areas of pollution-free industries that are available to us. There are many areas of high technology in which the environmental impact, other than of a visual kind, will be minimal. There is also the fact that when you talk about costs you must not just talk about the cost on an individual enterprise because there is also the cost to the community in terms of health and of a general sense of well-being. We have a State-sponsored Health Education Bureau publicising with great effect and, I hope with great success the idea of a person's sense of well-being, of health being much more than the absence of illness while, at the same time, the health of many people in large cities although it may not constitute illness is seriously and deleteriously affected by the air they breathe and by the presence in their lives of various artifical substances whether they be in the form of pollutants or in the form of additives to their food or additives to their drinking water and so on.

Referring to the whole question of environmental protection does not mean we are set against growth. It is not a question of the good people who like to live in a nice, clean, green Ireland setting themselves up against industry. It is possible for industry and for all forms of industry to conform to standards. It is equally possible for industry to operate without standards. The Bhopal disaster in India is a classic case of an extreme deviation from standards tolerated because of the extreme conditions of a particular country. It is unquestionably true that if the Bhopal disaster had happened either in western Europe or North America every single plant producing what was produced in Bhopal and every single process related to it would have closed down instantaneously and would not have been allowed to reopen. It is a tragedy of life that the value of human life depends on whose life is lost and where it is lost.

One of the characteristics of the New Right assault in economics on what we would have regarded as the consensus on these matters until recently has been under the flag of deregulation. Deregulation is dressed up to mean getting these nasty bureaucrats off the backs of these fine hard-working entrepreneurs who want to create jobs for other people. This image of the altruistic entrepreneur is difficult to sustain but it is nevertheless an image which is presented to us very often. Deregulation has become the order of the day and prominent Irish academic economists, who I am beginning to believe have shares in the national broadcasting service considering the frequency with which the same five or six allegedly independent commentators surface, have written about deregulation not just in terms of reducing the numbers of forms people have to fill — a perfectly healthy objective and one that is more than worthy of attention by the Department of the Environment. In my own experience the amount of paperwork involved in the simple process of building a house extension astonished me, just because I wanted to cover up a drain of three feet. People may argue that large-scale environmental protection is impossible because of shortage of staff, but apparently I am not going to be allowed to pollute my backyard or half a dozen senior officials of Cork Corporation will be accountable to somebody. I never understood why so much paperwork should be involved.

I fully sympathise with anybody who says deregulation means reducing paperwork but that is not the same thing as what is being argued. What is being argued is that somehow there is a correlation between lowering standards and increasing economic activity, that there is a correlation between reducing planning controls in industry and economic activity, that there is a correlation between reducing the detail of safety regulation within industry and economic activity and there is a correlation between the reduction of environmental protection regulations and the performance of industry. There are senior people in the current United States Administration who are publicly hostile to the whole area of environmental protection by the federal authorities on the grounds that it is holding back economic development.

This is not only destructive and potentially destructive of our environment and of the quality of industry but it is also wrong. The profession to which I am attached has long argued — and this may surprise people — that in terms of the safe operation of a large chemical industry high standards of safety produce high standards of efficiency which in turn produce high standards of profits. The occasional short term, short cut profits made from poorly run, unsafe, polluting chemical industries are rarely of any long term benefit and often explode in the face of the earner of the profit.

It is wrong to suggest that there is some conflict between the quality of our environment as standards demand a standard of response which will determine the quality of the industries we want. If we choose to work on this idea of the minimum standard tolerable at the time we will get minimal standard industries with minimal standards of technology at high levels of environmental threat.

We are not so impoverished that we need to destroy that which makes this country so much better to live in than many other countries in Europe. It was a revelation of our own lack of self confidence that when a recent study by an American academic was published about the relative enjoyment of living in various countries, and when we were placed eighth in the world, well ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom but considerably behind a number of Scandanavian and European countries, the response of our media was astonishment.

This was because we have convinced ourselves that we are in the worst country in Europe with a whole host of problems which bear no comparison to those of anybody else. Speaking as one who lives outside this dreadfully overgrown capital city, I say that we have an enormous amount that is worthwhile in our environment. The region in which I live is well developed in terms of quality of environment and of lifestyle. It is not something we should give away easily or cheaply. It should not be argued away on the basis of relative measures of short term cost to one or two major stage utilities. It is not that sort of an issue, but an issue about the choice we want to make about our future environment.

It is not enough to say that if we impose higher standards we will, therefore, reduce the number of jobs. I see from the Department of Industry and Commerce, in terms of the draft directive of the European Community, that if you put up costs you affect competitiveness and lose jobs. That simplistic correlation is a collection of nonsense of the first magnitude. If that were the case, Switzerland would be the least developed country in the world and India would be the most developed because the Swiss have very high costs and wages and the Indians have the opposite. The idea that the price of products alone determines competitiveness is a gross travesty of the truth. Once you move away from the idea that pure simple price determines competitiveness, then the whole question of the relative cost of environmental protection takes on a totally new perspective. This is not Brendan Ryan's eccentric theory. Anybody who wants to read the OECD's report on innovation in Ireland will see that they make precisely the same point — that competitiveness in the future is not simply a matter of producing cheap goods, that it is a question of quality, innovation, attention to consumers' needs, a follow up of support of marketing and so on. It is possible to sell goods at a higher price than the competitor in terms of the quality of the goods, of their reliability and of the follow up to them.

This idea that all we have to do is make sure that everything that we produce here is cheaper than in other countries and that then it will sell is arrant nonsense advocated by people who have, incidentally, a far more rigidly ideological view of the world than anybody I know operating in what can be euphemistically called the Irish Left. That is the only way to explain the simplistic argument foisted upon us about competitiveness and which is at the centre of many of the arguments about our electricity costs. I do not accept a large part of the argument about the apparent enormous cost the ESB expect that the proper regulation of emissions from their generating stations will put on us. The presumption that that, therefore, means we will lose jobs because of higher prices may be true of specific industries but it is not necessarily true on a grand scale. The one quoted ad nauseam is a plant in Limerick. Many people argue that it might be a huge investment but the net value added within the Irish economy of many of these large scale multinationals is quite small.

In terms of an engineering approach dealing with any particular hazard, whether to the environment, the individual working in the plant or to people living around the plant, there are three levels on which it should be dealt. It is frequently forgotten that the best way to deal with the hazard is to eliminate it completely. It is worth mentioning that the ESB have attempted to do that by changing the quality of coal they are using in Moneypoint but they have no guarantee that that will be successful. The second is by controlling that hazard and I hope we will succeed in doing so. The third is the extreme case of certain streets in Japan where people have to have breathing apparatus supplied to them — that is on the level of personal protection. If we intend to protect our environment and ourselves from environmental pollution we have to know what we are talking about and the standards within which we are operating. Consequently, I am always astonished by statements that things are absolutely safe or the even more sweeping assertion that because something is not proven to be hazardous, therefore, we must assume it is not hazardous.

In terms of human health, whether we are talking about toxic substances or air pollution, we do not have a satisfactory way of forecasting, with any degree of reliability, what damage a particular substance may do. We cannot really carry out experiments on human beings on a scale to see how many will die. We can carry out experiments on mice and rats to see if 50 per cent are dead in a week's time. That gives an indication of the relative degree of damage of different concentrations of toxic substances. However, we cannot do anything like that with human beings. Therefore, we are left with epidemiology studies with large groups of people over a long period of time. However, the problem with that approach is that you are effectively counting bodies. In other words, we discover that something is pollutant or dangerous because people die and that certain levels produce death. We can carry out tests on animals, on micro-organisms, or on volunteers but we are always left with a degree of uncertainty.

Toxic substances were tested on animals and found to be safe but turned out to be carcinogenic on humans. There is no absolute level of safety. The classic example of the fundamental flaw in this whole issue has been the nuclear argument, that because the nuclear industry was so safe unthinkable accidents could never happen.

It is not a question of politics, it is a question of fact that there is no such thing as absolute safety. Therefore, to say that a hazard is not proven and to use that as an argument for not doing something which has been proven to be necessary in other countries at a later stage in development is illogical and self-contradictory. To the extent that there are accepted standards of what is damaging to health, whether in terms of the concentration of toxic substances within an industrial environment or the concentration within the atmosphere generally, we must remember that every revision of what are regarded as unhealthy concentrations of any noxious substance in the atmosphere has been downwards. Therefore, what is stated to be safe in 1960 may well turn out to be unsafe by 1980. It is in that context that this legislation, as legislation in principle, is most welcome. There is nothing in the legislation except for a rather sweeping provision to invade the privacy of domestic homes in one section. I would like to discuss with the Minister on Committee Stage the necessity for it and particularly the choice of language which leaves an individual with a lot of freedom to decide what is urgent and what is not. By and large, the legislation is most welcome and worthwhile.

Since we are discussing this legislation in the context of the joint committee report on acid rain I would also like to address myself to that issue. The legislation will be as good as the standards we choose to accept and, incidentally, that we choose to enforce. There is an increasing view that it does not matter that standards are set because they are rarely enforced, whether they be standards in water pollution, in driving — as Senator Daly will raise later on this evening — or in many other things. It is one thing to set standards, but we have to have a will to enforce them. There cannot be nods, winks and indications that because a particular process provides jobs or is a contributor to the local economy we will not enforce the regulations. Consequently, if we are to have this kind of legislation we must have the resources to ensure that it is implemented. We must have the technical skills to ensure that it is implemented and we must be sure that those who are given the job of enforcing these regulations are independent and are not in any way open to influence by bodies which might have different motives or interests in mind. The great quality of the Garda — and I say this as one who has been a rather frequent critic of theirs in the past — is that they operate by and large with considerable independence and integrity in deciding how and where the law should be enforced. If we are to introduce air pollution legislation, as we now intend to do, it will only be as good as the standards we choose and the commitment we are prepared to make to its enforcement.

We could talk about the different contributors to air pollution. I do not want to because it has been done a few times since this debate opened. It is undoubtedly true, as Senator Fitzsimons pointed out, that we will not be addressing the problem of air pollution until we do something about emissions from car engines and other engines. As many people have pointed out, the State transport services, particularly in Dublin city, do not set a good example to the rest of the community. I hope we will hear shortly about controls on emissions from cars. I hope also that the question of regulation of domestic fuel consumption will not be avoided. It may be difficult but it is equally necessary. We have to deal with the two major problems of sulphur dioxide and the oxides of nitrogen. In the context of the problem that confronts us and Europe at present, I want to talk a little about sulphur dioxide.

I do not know how people formed the impression that science can give absolute answers and that if you wait long enough science will give you an answer. Science does no more than measure what happens. It sets up experiments to compare what happens under one set of circumstances with what happens under another set of circumstances. It is not surprising that people have not yet produced scientific evidence which has persuaded people unequivocally that sulphur dioxide emissions are connected with acid rain problems in Europe. Neither does it surprise me that the loudest arguers against the thesis that sulphur dioxide emissions in some countries are the cause of acid rain in other countries are those who have the largest emissions of sulphur dioxide and that the strongest arguers on the other side are those who perceive themselves to be suffering most from sulphur dioxide emissions or from acid rain. Ultimately, we cannot wait for somebody out there, i.e. the scientist, to give us an unequivocal answer. We did not get it on nuclear power and we have never got it on environmental issues generally. We have to make our own choices and decisions. It is in that context that we have to look at the ESB and in particular the Moneypoint generating station.

The ESB have produced arguments on their own behalf to justify the non-provision of proper sulphur dioxide removal plant in that process. They have a number of arguments, some to do with dilution factors and others with the current degree of sulphur dioxide pollution of the atmosphere. The one that frightened most people is the figure they produced of £400 million to fit the necessary equipment. Again, I have to counsel caution because the ESB — and I do not hold it against them; in fact, I have a fairly high view of the ESB — have made mistakes before. The ESB had us very close to an irreversible commitment to building a large nuclear power generating plant in the Minister's own constituency, indeed, in the Minister's own backyard almost. I do not think anybody was aware of it at the time, but they were probably going to have to build two because it is almost an axiom that you must have spare capacity equal to your largest single generating unit in case that one fails. Therefore, since the nuclear power plant was going to be by far the most powerful you would have to have two. The ESB convinced large section of Irish society, including a number of Governments and a number of Ministers, that they had absolutely no choice, that nuclear power was cheap and safe, and that we would need it by about 1985 or 1986 or definitely by 1990.

They were wrong. They were wrong in a number of cases. They were wrong about the safety. They were wrong about the need. They were wrong about the economics because they accepted the economic analysis of the nuclear industry which conveniently left out both the cost of developing nuclear power, including weapons research, and also the later real cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants after 20 years. We have power plants in conventional sectors which are running for a lot longer than 20 years and they will not require security forces to defend them for indefinite periods after they are decommissioned or after they are closed down. The ESB, therefore, are not infallible. When they produce a figure of £400 million and a 20 per cent increase in prices out of thin air, we are entitled to ask: cui bono, to whose benefit is this argument about £400 million?

It happens to suit the ESB to say £400 million. That is a justification for their argument. It is perfectly possible to specify a particular kind of process to deal with anything involved in the chemical industry. We do not know what assumptions are built in. We do not know what specifications are built in and we do not know what time scale is in mind. It is perfectly possible to generate a figure of £400 million.

It is equally true that other reputable authorities quote figures which are a fraction of that. It is a bit much to take a capital cost of £400 million and talk about it as if it were a current cost to be stuck on to electricity prices. Capital costs are not paid for in a 12 month period. I do not know the period of time within which the ESB expect to recoup the capital cost of any investment but if it is 12 months, then the ESB must be one of the most productive and efficient industries in the world. I would say three, four or five years. It would be more realistic to spread this exaggerated figure of £400 million over the number of years in which a normal ESB investment is required to pay for itself, or is required to be paid for, as the case may be. In that case, the scare figure of a 20 per cent increase in the cost of electricity comes into a much finer perspective and does not seem nearly as intimidating or overpowering or impossible. I suppose the cost should have been the last matter which I discussed.

Other arguments are used about sulphur dioxide emissions, not so much to justify the ESB's alleged 50 per cent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions as to justify our derogation from the proposed directive. Many of these arguments are difficult to take seriously. One is that because we are a small country we produce a small amount of pollution and therefore we should be given special conditions. Any unit of population anywhere in Europe could make a similar argument: because they were a small area of population and produced only a small amount of pollution they should be left to their own devices.

We have currently very low standards of emissions. It is interesting, but nevertheless frightening, that we seem to believe we must wait until we are as polluted as Europe before we start working backwards to where we were before we were polluted. Surely it is a far more practical and sensible objective to decide to avoid exceeding under any circumstances levels which would begin to bring us near European standards of pollution. Because we are situated, by our own good fortune, on the right side of the prevailing winds and, therefore, in terms of imported pollution we will have less of a problem than many other countries does not justify us in saying that what we create will be carried away and, therefore, we need not worry too much about it.

We must address the question of what are acceptable levels of sulphur dioxide and other emissions in our own atmosphere. They cannot be based on the fact that we are well below other countries' standards because other countries' standards are admitted now by most of them to be far too low. The standards must be based on what we as a community decide are acceptable standards and on what are the real costs, not just for ourselves or for industry, but for the entire community. That includes, incidentally, the entire tourist industry.

The tourist industry can well be undermined, because image is as much a part of the tourist industry as reality. This country's image must not change from that of a country with clean air, clean water and a commitment to such matters to a country which has the lowest standards of environmental protection in Europe and which in the words of the Department of Industry and Commerce "has made every effort to secure total exemption for Ireland from the provisions of the draft directive". In other words, the rest of Europe believes sulphur dioxide emissions should be reduced to a certain standard; we say we do not want even to meet that standard but we want total exemption. We want to make our own standards.

That argument is naive in the extreme. It allows certain technical gobbledegook to be generated by certain interest groups to intimidate policy makers. There is no reason why we should not have a highly pollution-free environment with a high level of technological development in the chemical industry area, the electronic industry area, the food industry area, or whatever other area we wish to develop. There is no reason why both cannot be done. It is a question of whether we are willing to set standards and whether the quality of what we produce is saleable on the market place. Therefore, I regret enormously the way in which we seem to have run away from the issue of sulphur dioxide and its damage to our environment. When will we suddenly discover that we need to do something dramatic about sulphur dioxide? When we reach European levels, what will we do then — bring the levels back down? It becomes ludicrous after a while.

Other people have recognised the problem. If we cannot accept cut-backs, we can at least say now that there is a limit which we will not tolerate. If there is a limit beyond which we will not go, the solution is not to sit back and wait until we reach the limit and then impose standards. We must impose standards now because we have now reached our limit. It is obvious that we should minimise emissions in the meantime and minimise the risk of reaching that standard.

As I said earlier, it is universally true about what are regarded as acceptable standards of pollution and emissions that every time they are revised, they are revised downwards. The fact that we are well below what are regarded as currently acceptable standards may well be as much a reflection on the fact that current standards are too lenient as on any scientific evidence. One cannot produce some sort of comprehensive scientific evidence and say this proves that a certain concentration of sulphur dioxide is safe and this proves that a certain concentration of sulphur dioxide is unsafe. It is not like that and it never can be like that.

I appeal again to the Government not to be hypnotized by the ESB's technical gobbledegook into believing some of the things they have said. Having suggested that many of the other arguments about why we should escape from this directive are less than worthy of the Government's efforts, nevertheless the Bill is welcome. Of course, it will be entirely meaningless if we carry on the argument we started on sulphur dioxide by saying standards here will be different from everywhere else because we are not as polluted as everywhere else. To say that we can tolerate more pollution because we are not as badly off as the rest of western Europe implies that when we get to European standards we will start moving backwards. Surely we should learn from what others have experienced, particularly from Scandinavia and Switzerland, that it is possible to combine high levels of economic achievement with high levels of environmental protection and set ourselves that target.

No country has ever succeeded by setting low standards. If we want to preserve the uniqueness of this country, which is part of its attraction to investors and tourists, we have to set our own standards and those standards must not be based on a sort of crude over-simplified economic model of what determines investment and economic growth. We can create both industrial development and environmental protection if we are prepared to. I regret that on present evidence we are not prepared to do so and that we will tolerate destruction of our environment on a considerable scale in order to make spurious and probably negative progress in industrial development.

I welcome the Bill and the fact that it has built into it the concept of a devolution of power to the local authorities. This, of course, is absolutely necessary because there is no way that one could control air pollution without having local authorities very much involved in such matters affecting the environment. It is good to see the local authorities getting these powers in the area of air quality. We must find the best practical means for this prevention of imported pollution. The power to make charges may not be very popular because we all know about local authority charges, but they will have the power to make charges, where necessary. They will also have the power to prosecute and will be involved in the licensing of industries. It is interesting to see that they will be involved in survey, research and investigation. These things are all worth nothing because there is some discussion at the moment on the involvement of the local authorities in this area, and on the question of devolution of power. A seminar has just finished in Sligo on the whole question of devolution of power. Here is an area into which the local authorities can get their teeth. Let us hope this power will be followed by others having regard to the policy to devolve power.

Air pollution in the urban areas has increased dramatically because of the burning of coal in domestic houses. This is most noticeable in large urban areas like Dublin.

The Department of the Environment carried out a survey in 1981. The main pollution emission sources categories in Dublin city suburbs were domestic, commercial, industrial power generation and vehicles. The total emissions from all were estimated to be about 55,400 tonnes of SO2 per year. The survey gave a break down of the constituents of air pollution and said that over 80 per cent of the pollution emitted originated from the use of fuel oil; sulphur dioxide from coal, was 10 per cent, and 5 per cent pollution from gas and oils. The survey reckoned that the consumption of solid fuels accounted for 75 per cent of air pollution. The survey showed that the emissions from oil fuels are small with the exception of diesel driven vehicles which were, in fact, calculated to contribute to about 10 per cent of air pollution in 1981.

Senator Ryan mentioned the ESB but the survey found, that although the ESB stations contribute 65 per cent of the SO2, because it was dispersed at a high level it was not as bad as a smaller amount being emitted at ground level. Elderly people may not be as affected by the emission of pollution from the ESB stations as they would be by emissions from adjoining industries largely using coal. This is what the study hinged around. The survey showed a co-relation between deaths and air pollution. The survey cannot be as accurate as it claims if it did not look at other habits of people such as heavy smoking, the type of work they did, their previous medical history, their care, nutrition and so on. However, there is a problem and it is great to see a Bill being introduced to deal with it.

The use of natural gas and other fuels can help to cut down pollution. London is a very good example of that. Years ago London was probably one of the worst polluted cities in the world. Nowadays in the greater London area, one is talking about a very substantial traffic flow and maybe 12 million to 13 million people; and that position has been reversed in London.

It is accurately reported that the domestic sector in the Dublin area in 1981 accounted for 81 per cent of the total smoke emissions but it must be remembered that the winter smoke level in Dublin for 1983 and 1984 was the same as in 1973 and 1974. It was not any worse and it was even a third less than it was 20 years ago. One would wonder if there was anything missing in the surveys carried out.

I am really worried about people who are coal users. People have reared large families in smoky rooms in tenement houses and have lived to 80 or 90 years of age.

That is one consideration. Was the presence of lead in the atmosphere taken into consideration in the surveys? One wonders whether carbon monoxide emissions were properly monitored prior to any survey, and with what result. I accept, that urgent action is required to curb carbon monoxide emissions but I wonder are smoke free zones the answer. Are there other practical alternatives which might have a less drastic effect on the price of coal and so on? When one is talking about air pollution and blames most of it on coal one must consider that there has been a great growth in the use of back boilers. Many people in the working class areas have to rely on coal and turf. If anything increases the running costs of central heating we are talking about higher subsidies in the final analysis to cater for these people. When introducing plans to lessen our pollution problem we must not forget that many people die from hypothermia, so we cannot just do surveys and studies and overlook the people we should protect. These people can only afford to buy in small amounts, small bottles of gas, small amounts of turf, small bundles of wood, small amounts of paraffin and so on. If we are not more careful about our studies and observations we may impose hardships on many people who will not be able to live with them. If we get to the point where we actually compel consumers to use more expensive fuels, we are imposing hardships, Smokeless fuel which may not be the answer to our problems, will cost more, maybe 50 per cent more. People in the poorer areas cannot afford to buy oil in bulk and they must be considered. By using smoke reducing appliances to improve air quality, we may be doing a lot of damage in other ways. Apart from the cost to the Government it would cost more in subsidies to people who could afford the new types of fuels if it ever came to the point where it got so bad that we would have to introduce these types of appliances that would make it much more difficult for people to use the ordinary fuels.

I wonder if the arguments about our levels of pollution being the highest in Europe are correct. I do not believe that this is true. In the directive which came into force in July 1982, mandatory EC standards were laid down in relation to sulphur dioxide. I believe these were met in Dublin and in all other areas. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom have admitted to the EC that their levels were above the mandatory standards. So we are not alone in this. We should not go overboard about it. The Bill is there and the powers are within it but I do not think we should get into the area of trying to crucify the power in our application of it. That is why local government involvement is very important. They would know more than others about what is happening and would be able to deal with it.

I am not going to go into this any further. I think it has been fairly well covered. I will just say that I wonder what attention was given, when studies were being carried out, to the question of fog which we get fairly frequently here. Fog cannot be confused with smoke although I very often confuse it with smoke. We live on an island and we suffer from sea pollutants as well. We have got lead also. I do not know what produces all the pollution but I would venture to suggest that studies in this area have not been finalised. The surveys and the research are not up-to-date. I hope that the Bill, as it is set out, is enabling enough to allow for that particular aspect to be looked at so that we would not be producing results of studies and scientific reports that are exaggerated and a little frightening.

In the explanatory memorandum which accompanies this Bill we are told that the purpose is to provide a comprehensive, modern, legislative framework for the control of air pollution in order to meet national requirements and to enable full effect to be given to relevant EC directives. While the purpose of the Bill is indeed praiseworthy, the reality is that it is merely enabling legislation. The Bill represents a lost opportunity to provide effective pollution control. What is required, of course, is legislation which directs local authorities to implement rules and regulations which must be observed. This inevitably means that the resources must be provided for local authorities to carry out that job. Local authorities are not negative or defeatist but actually welcome extra functions provided they are given the wherewithal to carry them out. In recent years we have had a list of Bills — for example, in respect of water pollution, casual trading and litter — which have been implemented only on a very limited scale due to a lack of staffing and the necessary resources. In the course of this contribution I will refer to the health hazard associated with air pollution. I will refer also to some policy options, for example, smokeless zones and, finally, I will say something about the potential sources of radioactive contamination of the Irish environment after Chernobyl.

The air pollution over Dublin city which is aggravated in winter high pressure climatic conditions is a source of real harm for people, especially the elderly and the young. In this regard I want to refer to an article entitled "Mortality in a General Hospital and Urban Air Pollution" by Drs. Ian Kelly and Luke Clancy of the Trinity medical school and which appeared in the Irish Medical Journal of October 1984. In the course of this article the researchers point out that a rise in air pollution does indeed have immediate adverse effects on health. These effects include an increase in the numbers of exacerbations of chronic bronchitis, increases in the demand for hospital beds and, of particular context in the Bill we are discussing, an increase in mortality among patients already suffering from chronic respiratory diseases. The researchers further point out that the young and the elderly are among those most vulnerable to these adverse effects.

Specifically the researchers conducted a study in St. James's Hospital in Dublin which showed an excess mortality rate in the winter of 1981-82. The major cause of deaths during this period was respiratory in nature. The researchers compared the increase in the mortality rate to the air pollution figures and found that there was a close match between mortality and air pollution. Based on their findings it is their belief that the episode of air pollution in that period was a major factor in the excess mortality. In broad terms there was a twofold increase in mortality in January 1982. When studied on a daily basis it was found that during the period 11 to 14 January 1982 exceptionally high levels of air pollution, particularly smoke, were recorded in Dublin. In regard to smoke as an air pollutant it is particularly disappointing that under the Bill local authorities can choose whether to set up smokeless zones. Furthermore there is no compulsion under the Bill to include domestic dwellings which are the principal source of air pollution.

With regard to air pollutions and the options that are available, I readily acknowledge that this Bill is necessary not least because we have not yet fulfilled all our legally binding commitments under European Community law. The heating systems being installed in new housing indicates that the air pollution situation will not improve over the next five years. In regard to new housing the local authority houses all have open fires with back boilers and in the case of private new houses 73 per cent use solid fuel central heating.

Ths leads us back to the problem of smoke to which I have already referred. There is some positive news in this regard. Early tests show that smoke heating appliances could reduce smoke emissions by 50 per cent. If these appliances were generally installed the air pollution problem resulting from smoke would be considerably eased. However, it must be said that these new appliances have yet to be proven in practice. In a paper presented at a conference in the RDS in November 1985 entitled "Irish Policy Options" Professor Frank Convery of the resource and environmental policy centre at UCD, made the following recommendations. He urged that we press ahead with testing the smoke heating devices and that a prototype smokeless zone of 4,000 houses in one of the worst affected areas should be introduced. On smokeless zones Professor Convery drew attention to the UK approach which provides for the implementation of grant-aided conversion for smokeless zones. He estimated that if 4,000 houses were converted per year in the Republic the total cost would amount to about £2½ million and would take about 15 years to cover 40 per cent of the solid fuel burning housing stock. Professor Convery recommended the installation of smokeless fuel burning closed stoves in all new local authority housing and the same for private housing in those zones which have a severe and continuing air pollution problem.

I now want to turn to air pollution and the very current and worrying area of radioactive contamination. Viewed from an Irish perspective the principal and most dangerous source of nuclear pollution is the release into the air of objectionable and dangerous material from nuclear establishments in the UK and further afield. A second important source is the discharge of radioactive waste into the sea, for example, waste from Sellafield. A third area of risk from what is by no means an exhaustive list is where accidents occur in which radioactive material is released from nuclear powered ships or ships carrying nuclear weapons or radioactive waste in the vicinity of Ireland and in particular in the Irish Sea.

First let me take Sellafield. Low level liquid radioactive wastes have been discharged from Sellafield since about 1952. Public pressure, which must be sustained, has resulted in more stringent regulations being implemented by the Sellafield management. However, it is now well established that traces of radioactive effluence from Sellafield have sprayed over most of the European Continental Shelf, as evidenced by the detection of traces from this source near the coasts as far away as Greenland and off the west coast of Ireland. This evidence has been very well documented professionally by Dr. Peter Mitchell of the Department of Experimental Physics at UCD. The distribution of these radioactive elements around the whole coastline of Ireland has been studied in detail at UCD in recent years. As we know, the coastal region most affected by these marine discharges has been the east coast and in particular the north-east coast.

I want to focus briefly on what is potentially the most serious and most immediate threat of nuclear pollution. This, of course, would arise from large accidental releases into the air of radioactivity from nuclear reactors used for civil, military or research purposes in the UK and Western Europe. As the disaster at Chernobyl unfortunately demonstrated, radioactive contamination spreads very quickly over very large areas when a reactor explosion or fire occurs. Such contamination has no respect for international boundaries and, indeed, the relevant authorities do not necessarily consider it their duty to notify their neighbours immediately. A worry in relation to major nuclear accidents is that the official risk assessments have been proved to be seriously defective. These official estimates claimed that a major disaster like Chernobyl would occur only once in a century. However, as we know with regret, in less than a decade, not to mention a century, we have witnessed the Three Mile Island disaster in the US and Chernobyl only a few months ago, together with two or three near misses in the US.

Arising out of the points I have just made, I ask the Minister to reply to a number of questions, assuming she has the appropriate responses, as follows. First I want to pose some questions in the international context. Are we in Ireland, the authorities here and specifically the Government, satisfied with the existing bilateral arrangements with the authorities in Britain regarding the immediate notification of our own authorities of any significant airborne release of radioactivity from nuclear establishments within the British jurisdiction? Secondly, what progress has been made since the Chernobyl disaster regarding international arrangements for the immediate reporting and prompt dissemination of all information relevant to neighbouring countries to enable them to protect their own populations by taking appropriate remedial action? For my third question, what progress has been made on the setting up of an international inspectorate or, at the very least, an EC inspectorate with sufficient powers to enable it to close down out of date nuclear establishments or establishments which do not conform to the latest international standards? I would be less worried about the discharges into the Irish Sea from Sellafield and more concerned about the older, out of date stations in mainland Britain which it seems present a much more serious threat in the nuclear area.

Now I want to put a number of questions to the Minister on the national front. First, are the statutory authority here, namely the Nuclear Energy Board, now in a position to provide an immediate warning of any increase in radiation levels throughout the whole country or at least in the main centres of population and the principal geographical regions? Second, is such monitoring done continuously or intermittently? Third, almost six months have elapsed since the accident at Chernobyl. What progress has been made in the area of contingency planning in case an accident of similar proportions took place in a country much closer geographically to Ireland? Fourth, unlike most if not all other European countries, no report has yet been published by the Irish Government or their agencies detailing the levels of radioactivity in Ireland and in particular in foodstuffs as a consequence of Chernobyl. Do the Government propose to publish such a report in respect of Ireland?

The final issue I want to refer to is the area of acid rain and the Burren. I have a particular interest in the Burren, being a native of west Clare. Clare County Council and the ESB are to be commended for commissioning An Foras Forbartha to recommend monitoring programmes in respect of sulphur emissions from the coal-burning station at Moneypoint. The possibility of acid rain affecting the Burren must receive the closest attention. I ask the Minister to give the House an assurance that as soon as An Foras Forbartha have collected their results, their report will be made public and that both Houses will have an opportunity to debate it.

In conclusion, let me make the point again that the purpose of the Bill is entirely laudable, but it is merely enabling legislation. It does little more than provide the structure within which local authorities may or may not act. Local authorities would welcome not alone the functions in the Bill but important additional functions. However, they will not be able to give effect to this legislation, or many other Acts on the Statute Book, because they have not been provided with the financial wherewithal to do so.

In welcoming the Bill I must lay emphasis on the good sense of adopting a very gradual approach in dealing with the problem of Dublin's air quality. It is important that we do not allow ourselves to be panicked by very occasional instances of excedents. The Minister is to be congratulated on her very level-headed approach to the whole debate. She has not allowed herself to be misled by some of the wilder claims made about the air quality in Dublin. On the other hand, the Minister has been careful to respond to the legitimate concern of our citizens about the need to ensure that Dublin's air is as clean as possible.

The Minister pointed out, rightly, that it is not possible to have perfectly clean air any more than it is possible to have anything else perfect. There must be a balance between economic activity and air quality. The whole matter is a question of balance and a certain amount of common sense. In this Bill the Minister seems to have got the balance about right.

Public representatives in the Dublin area in particular will never forget the hardships caused in the sixties when local authority houses were built without adequate means of heating. For the poor the most important consideration is that the fuel they use be available to them at a low cost and in small quantities. It is useless to expect those who are less well off to order their year's supply of fuel at one go or to pay large quarterly or bimonthly gas and electricity bills. Time and again experience has demonstrated that this simply does not happen. In the sixties the failure to provide adequate heating facilities in local authority houses led to complaints about dampness, to a growth in pulmonary illnesses and to the infliction of real hardship on those least able to protect themselves from the effects of poorly thought-out legislation. The final outcome, as we all know only too well, was that the State was forced to build, at great cost, fireplaces in homes originally built without them. Surely that experience ought to make us pause and seriously consider the ramifications and folly of too draconian pollution legislation. At the very least the experience of the sixties demonstrates that special control areas ought not to be introduced without full investigation. That is a reasonable demand in the circumstances in which Dublin finds itself, where the quality of our air is generally satisfactory and where it has been improved in recent times.

In this regard the Seanad has found itself subject to many representations from bodies interested in the passage of this Bill through this House. Most of these representations have been level-headed and well considered but some, regrettably, have shown an alarming disregard for the facts.

This experience highlights one of the problems facing the members of this House who have no independent facilities to carry out research and are at a disadvantage in trying to judge the merits of the cases made by different pressure groups. Perhaps it is time the Oireachtas considered the provision of an independent research arm for members of both Houses. The Minister may say that the Government's research is sufficient. Is it not naive to accept that all Governments at all times are motivated by the best intentions in relation to all their activities in all legislation they produce? That the legislature should be free to make up its own mind is a cardinal principle of democracy. One must wonder in view of the intensity of some of the representations we have received whether or not the time has come to review our capacity to initiate independent research free of Government and pressure groups.

We are very lucky in this country that we still have a generally high standard of air quality. Due to our geographical position and the mainly western winds we are not greatly affected by transboundary air pollution, and in no way to the same extent as other European countries. Other favourable factors which mean that we enjoy relative freedom from air pollution are our low population density and the absence of urbanisation, and also, the 1963 Planning Act which imposed restrictions on the emissions from new premises in all planning applications.

In recent times people have become more aware of air pollution and more interested in its prevention. There are many different air pollutants. The most common are smoke, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and lead. All of these result from the combustion of fuel in one form or another whether it be in the case of commercial and industrial power generation or on the domestic front. It is therefore clear that the problem is the concern of us all and one in which we must all play a part if we are to successfully come to terms with it.

It is interesting to note that the reduction of lead content in petrol from .40 to .15 led to a reduction of 60 per cent in lead emissions from motor vehicles. Only the other day the Minister went out personally to show that we will, in the near future, have completely lead-free petrol which should result in a further reduction. It shows how effective that operation has been in reducing the pollution emissions from motor vehicles.

I am glad to note that in imposing regulations in section 24 (1) with regard to the limiting, and where possible, the prevention of emissions in premises, the term "best practicable means" is defined as having due regard to the balance between the needs of development and the needs of the environment. The responsibility of implementing the Bill is entrusted to the 27 county councils and, at the time it was introduced, the five borough corporations and Dún Laoghaire Corporation. Under the new reorganisation Dún Laoghaire Corporation will become one of the Dublin county areas.

Section 21 provides that the local authority may transfer authority where a high degree of expertise is needed. This is only right because if the local authority find themselves without the sufficient expertise they can engage people like An Foras Forbartha or other bodies to give them this expertise. Different people have expressed reservations as to why local authorities should be entrusted with the implementation. This is another step in the delegation of power to the local authorities which has been a continuing exercise in recent times. This is natural enough because no central body could cater for different counties so that there is a considerable variation in different areas in the need and level of local services. Local authorities already control the administration of planning, water pollution, sanitary services, roads and housing. It is only natural I suppose that they should also have control of this Bill on air pollution.

Section 33 allows for reviews of licences at intervals of not less than three years or at any time where the local authority have grounds for believing that an emission may constitute a serious risk of air pollution or a change that was not foreseen at the time of the granting of the permit.

Section 34 allows for appeals to An Bord Pleanála in a similar manner in which appeals are carried out against planning and water pollution. It is only right that air pollution should be in that category. There are many and varied self-appointed experts who talk about the serious pollution standards in Dublin. Many of those are exaggerated and they emanate from anonymous sources which are in no way substantiated.

Part 4 of the Bill enables the local authority to declare all or part of an area to be a special control area where the level of pollutants may require special abatement measures. This section could be of special significance in the Dublin area where the smoke levels may on occasion be exceeded. The results of Dublin Corporation's monitoring levels are reported in bulletins from time to time. It is encouraging to see and to note that the position for 1985-86 shows a reduction in the monthly mediums as compared with 1984-85. The figures show a continuing decline in pollution levels in the Dublin area. Smoke levels for winter periods are as much as 60 per cent below the EC standards — the winter period being October to March. Figures for the first three months of 1986 also show a further reduction.

It is interesting and encouraging to note that the smoke levels for Dublin in 1965-66 were of 140 microgrammes whereas the figure for the year 1985-86 is 40 microgrammes only, a dramatic reduction. The main cause of air pollution given regularly by environmentalists is domestic coal. This is the pollutant most easily visible and therefore attributed blame. The fact that coal sales increased dramatically in the period in which there has been a reduction in the smoke zone over Dublin seems to give the lie to this accusation. Invisible pollutants such as atomic radiation exist. But sulphur dioxide and toxic substances, such as lead nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide generally are invisible and are overlooked on account of the high visibility of smoke.

The coal industry — in their own interests — have a deep interest in air pollution problems. They believe that the basis on which measurements are taken should be expanded to include all elements of pollution including smoke, sulphur dioxide, lead and nitrogen oxides. They believe that it would strengthen the provisions of the proposed Bill were it mandatory for such research to be undertaken prior to the implementation of specially controlled zones in any area. The forecasts of independent experts have been borne out regarding the decline of smoke levels. The reasons are well documented. They are a clear indication of what is factual in the Dublin area. The reduction in such smoke levels is due to the spread of population from the inner city to the suburbs, the greater choice of fuels, the availability and use of smokeless fuels and the development and use of more efficient fuel burning, smoke free appliances.

The coal industry are continually trying to find new ways to ensure the reduction of smoke levels and are undertaking every effort to make smokeless fuels available in small lots to suit all demands. We may have an air pollution problem in the city. However, it is not, as yet, so acute as to demand immediate action and the adoption of panic remedies. We are all lucky that current pollution readings are well below EC standards and that we have time to plan the assessed desirable level. It behoves us to take necessary precautions and adopt every possible means to reduce those pollution levels. That is the concern of us all. If we do not allow ourselves be driven into taking panic measures we can look forward to the time when we shall have hopefully a brighter, healthier air stream in the Dublin area.

I congratulate the Minister on the wisdom and foresight she has shown in her approach to this Bill. It is worthy of the support of every Member of the House.

To some extent I would agree with Senator Belton in welcoming the Bill although with some reservations. But I would have to say I disagree most profoundly with him in almost everything else he said in the latter half of his speech. I would agree with him indeed in saying that, as Senators, we need independent facilities for research. I would suggest that the second half of his speech is a brilliant illustration of why we need independent research for our speeches, as a great deal of what he said was virtually a direct quotation from the submissions which all of us have received from the well heeled coal industry. In this instance I would point out that those people who suffer from asthma, bronchitis and other pollution-related diseases have not got the same amount of money behind them to put forward submissions to Members of the Oireachtas which would attack the emission of smoke and other pollutants in the Dublin city area. They have certainly done a very good job in showering us all with splendid little leaflets explaining that if you take an average of the figures over the whole year they went down between the years 1984, 1985 and 1986. That assertion ignores the fact that they rose steeply from 1981 onwards and the main reason that the worst excesses were avoided in January and February of 1986 was that we had a period of very strong east winds which drove away a great deal of the smoke pollution.

There is worldwide concern about general environmental pollution. As Senator Hillery said, this has been brought to a head by some environmental pollution, by nuclear power accidents such as occurred at Sellafield and Chernobyl. It is not only freaks, environmental extremists or whatever who are concerned about the way in which our environment is being polluted. I agree with the Minister that it is essential to introduce this kind of legislation. My sole worry about it is that it is very much an enabling Bill. I have some doubts about how quickly or effectively will its provisions cope with the situation with regard to air pollution.

I find it very difficult to understand how anyone can suggest there is not a serious pollution problem in Dublin city. I live in the south suburbs of Dublin. Practically every day I drive into Dublin city. On any day like today — a beautiful fine blue skied day — if one looks down the hill from the south suburbs of Dublin to the city below or indeed, as I had the experience, if one goes up to, say, the Bon Secours Hospital in Glasnevin and looks down on the city below, one will have no problem whatsoever in seeing an immense cloud of smoke and other sorts of pollution sitting on top of the middle of the city, such as would really make one afraid of going in to work.

One has only to look at our public buildings. Take, for example, St. Patrick's Cathedral. Not very long ago this cathedral, which as well as being a religious place of worship is also a public monument, was cleaned and repaired at very great expense. If one goes and looks at it today one will find that the same filth is gathering around it as was on it before. No doubt the same would apply to the Bank of Ireland and Christ Church Cathedral which have been cleaned more recently. We have only to look at our own surroundings to see the damage that has been done to the stonework of the National Museum, this very building and the National Library by sulphuric emissions which attach to stone work. There have been reports from the building authorities in Trinity College, with photographs attached, which show that the palisades, the little banisters as it were, along the top of the buildings there have been eaten away by pollution in the Dublin atmosphere to such an extent that they have become totally unsafe and have all got to be replaced. The photographs show the actual pillars eaten away by the level of pollution in Dublin. I find it impossible to believe that we have not got a serious pollution problem in the Dublin area at the very least.

As far as the figures are concerned, if one averages out the whole city, including the outer suburbs, over a whole year, one arrives at a certain figure but if you look at the different local measurements in areas like Rathmines, Ballyfermot and Trinity College itself, you will see that there have been quite a number of occasions where the smoke concentrations have gone way above the EC safe levels for a certain number of days during the last few years. I would certainly agree with my colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan, that what is regarded as safe today may well be regarded as unsafe in the future.

Of course, domestic smoke is not the only cause of pollution. There are various industrial emissions and there is also the problem of both petrol and diesel fuels. Every pedestrian or cyclist in Dublin and in some of our other towns is only too well aware of the fact that petrol and diesel fumes and in particular diesel fumes from buses and lorries — CIE are considerably at fault here — are very uncontrolled and can make a cyclist riding in the wake of one of these vehicles feel quite ill. This must be affecting the health of both cyclists and pedestrians. I am of course delighted to hear that the lowering of the lead content in petrol has helped this position. I am also delighted to hear that we are beginning to have lead free petrol, and may we press on with this. Nevertheless we still have to cope with the problem of diesel which is used by heavy commercial vehicles. So far as I as a driver and a pedestrian am concerned, I do not see any effort being made to control the clouds of noxious black smoke that emit from both buses and lorries every day of the week in the countryside and in the cities.

On a more mundane level where there is pollution any housewife who hangs her clothes on the line will find black spots appearing on them. Likewise any ordinary person who walks through Dublin city for a few hours and comes into their own house and does that simple thing — blows their nose on a white tissue will know if there is pollution in the area. I ask my colleagues to try this out. They will find nasty black stuff has collected through breathing the smoke pollution that is surrounding us. There is really no problem in a little bit of self-independent research, without scientists measuring things for us, to find out what is going on.

Naturally I welcome the Minister's Second Stage speech about the necessity for this legislation and how it will improve the situation, but I am afraid that, as in many other fields such as water pollution and planning, we may have extremely good legislation but extremely poor enforcement. I understand that with regard to the 1977 Water Pollution Act, which was an extremely good Act in its way, power was given to local authorities to make water quality management plans for the rivers and lakes in their area. Now, ten years later, only one such plan has been drawn up. There is a danger in introducing extremely good enabling legislation and then not taking immediate steps to put it into effect.

Once again I am afraid this may turn out to be what we describe as an Irish solution to an Irish problem. We make things look extremely good on the surface. We paper over the cracks and having done that, we say "That is done now. We have a splendid Air Pollution Act", but do nothing about it. To describe, as the Explanatory Memorandum does, the Act as a comprehensive, modern, legislative framework for the control of air pollution is just not enough. We need more than a framework. The Bill says the memorandum is largely a framework for regulatory action, but it is the regulatory action we want as well as the framework.

Leaving aside the position in Dublin city, in the countryside we need to be particularly careful because one of the things we pride ourselves on is our green and fresh countryside. This is very important to our tourist industry. We need to be particularly careful that this kind of pollution does not spread outside the cities and become, by sheer neglect, a problem in the countryside as well. We have seen in the acid rain report the danger of pollution being spread from country to country. It is rather easy for us, as other Senators have said, to sit back secure in the knowledge that, because of the westerly winds that blow across this island, pollution which we produce will be blown across to other people and that we will not necessarily suffer from it. Listening to the various discussions on the radio and reading in the newspapers the discussions about the danger of pollution emissions from the Moneypoint power station, I find it very difficult to accept the arguments of the ESB with regard to the enormous costs of controlling this pollution. I find it very strange that we do not seem to take any action to ensure that safeguards are included at the building stage, rather than letting the public authority or private industry build the factory, start manufacturing and then tell them they have to do something about the pollution because quite obviously it is going to cost a lot more if they have to make corrections after the building has been completed and the emission has been allowed.

The Bill goes on to talk about the requirement on occupiers of all premises, except private dwellings, to use the best practicable means to limit or prevent emissions. Unfortunately, a very large amount of smoke pollution is due to the use of open coal burning fires in private dwellings. Senator Belton has talked a great deal about the difficulty of poverty and the need for people of small means to be able to get fuel cheaply and in small quantities. There are a number of things I would say about this. I appreciate the need of people who have not got a great deal of financial resources, but I would make a comparison with other cities, in particular Belfast where they have just as many, or nearly as many people with fairly small financial resources and who need to be able to buy fuel in small quantities and so on. The authorities in Belfast have pursued a policy of taking area by area of the city and providing subsidies for people to change to types of fuel which are not pollutants.

In the various pieces of special pleading which we received from both the coal industry and, I think, more effectively from those who manufacture stoves, fireplaces, and so on, it has been asserted over and over again that they can make fireplaces, stoves or whatever which will use non-pollutant, smoke-free or virtually smoke-free fuels, and that the coal industry can supply these fuels. This is splendid. If they are able to do this, then let us make our legislation effective and let us provide for them to do this. The manufacturers of fireplaces and stoves are afraid that employment may be lost, but I suggest that if we followed this policy of changing the areas of the city bit by bit, perhaps starting with areas, such as Rathmines and Ballyfermot where smoke pollution is at its worst, we would not only not lose jobs but we would create jobs by bringing in legislation and, if necessary, a certain amount of subsidisation to change over from particularly smoke producing fuels to smoke free fuels.

I can only feel that the coal industry are weeping crocodile tears when they talk about people who need to get fuel in small quantities because they are poor. If you have ever bought a couple of stone of coal in those little plastic bags and if you have ever added up what the price of a ton of coal would be if you bought it in those little plastic bags, you will know that the cost of coal bought in small quantities is infinitely higher than the cost of coal bought by the ton, dear as that is.

I find it very difficult to accept this kind of weeping over the need of people who have to buy fuel in small quantities by an industry which is deliberately charging such high prices for small quantities of fuel. If they sold the coal in small quantities cheaply to the unfortunate poor I would have a great deal more sympathy for their argument. They should take the beam out of their own eye before they start taking the mote out of the environmentalists' eye.

We tend to be very self-satisfied and to say, for instance, that in Dublin of course our situation is not nearly as bad as it was in London in the 1950s when that city was forced by the ferocious smogs that happened at that time to introduce clean air legislation and to change the whole situation radically. Why do we take up a position that we must wait until things gets desperate before we will do anything about them? Why can we not say that we have this legislation in place now, that now is the time to act and now is the time to prevent things getting any worse than they are? I suggest that they are quite bad enough to do something about it.

It is positively criminal to take the attitude that we will wait until we have the London smogs, that we will wait until we have people wearing masks on the street, that we will wait until we have people dying of bronchitis every winter because of this extreme pollution before we feel it is necessary to make this legislation effective. Perhaps this sounds like scare-mongering but nevertheless I have sufficient experience of the introduction of enabling legislation of this type which then sits on the Statute Book without being put into effect. I want to speak very strongly on this and to urge on the Minister that where local authorities are not going ahead and dealing with the matter he should use the residual powers under the Act in order to force local authorities to act and, if necessary, to provide funds to help them to act in this matter.

I conclude by saying that the Bill is a step forward but it is only one step forward in a long walk of progress which we need before we can be really confident that we have a clean and healthy environment.

The debate this afternoon and on the previous occasion has been very wide-ranging. Many of us have very strong views on the protection of the environment and on the measures that are required to ensure that the air we breathe is as clean and as unpolluted as possible and the countryside — particularly in this country renowned for the quality of the waters and the unpolluted nature of the landscape — protected as far as possible.

It is very difficult to formulate a comment on the two proposals in front of us, first, the legislation and, second, the report of the joint committee on acid rain. I propose to deal mainly with the issue of acid rain. Other Senators have talked in detail particularly about the pollution levels in this city and that is understandable for people who live here.

The broader issue of acid rain is one that affects not only the entire island of Ireland — it certainly does not respect geographical or political borders — but is a problem faced by the whole western world and indeed those countries, though undeveloped, that border the industrial giants of the west. The term "acid rain" is one that everyone is familiar with now. It is a term that every household hears now and again but one that was probably not heard at all up to five or six years ago. Most families discuss it in some sort of vague way and are aware that it is a type of pollution that should be avoided.

What is acid rain? I will define it as follows. Rain is naturally acidic but measured on a pH scale — and this is referred to in the joint committee's report — of one to 14 from most acidic to most alkaline. Rainfall far from industrial areas is usually in the range of four and a half to five and a half. In industrial regions the pH of rainfall is often below four and has been measured in Europe as low as 2.6. It is most important, therefore, to distinguish between the acidity of rainfall and that of lakes and rivers and sources of water into which the rain falls because obviously some lakes in alkaline areas, in limestone for example, can cope very readily with neutralising high acidic rainfall. Others in non-limestone regions collect acidic rainfall very readily and the pollutant effect can certainly endanger many of the life forms existent in those lakes.

Lakes are not the only part of the environment affected by acid rain. Forests and man-made objects such as historic mounuments are being eroded steadily and they are probably even more important if measured by the cost of society of the damage caused to them.

The lake is a good example because we can readily classify the killing effect of varying degrees of acidity and how it affects various life forms in a like. I refer briefly to the levels of acidity that kills off various forms of animal life. Below a pH of six, crustaceans, snails and molluscs will die; below 5.8 salmon, trout and roach will die; below the same level, sensitive insects, plants and animal plankton will die; below 5.5 white fish and other aquatic forms will die and below 4.5 eel and brook trout will die. There are various gradations by which the acidic level of a lake will kill off life.

It is important to focus in a real way on this problem. Where does the acid rain come from? The major air pollutants associated with man's industrial activity are sulphur and nitrogen oxides, particules of dust and hydrocarbons emitted by stationary sources such as heavy industry, power plants, and mobile plants, such as vehicles and vehicular traffic. They all add to the pollution of the atmosphere and transform the atmosphere sometimes into a source of potential danger to all living things and eventually to humanity.

This matter is becoming a very live and real issue for most people who are interested in the environment. Much research has taken place in the developed countries on the effect of acid rain, and the consciousnes of the experts and the population of the EC countries has been raised on this issue. Let us look at the various impacts of acid rain. The loss of fish and other aquatic life has already occurred in many countries, in Scandinavia, eastern Canada and in the north east of the United States. The lowering of pH is believed to damage the sodium balance of fish gills, especially if the changes are sharp or occur quickly. The effect of acid rain on forests is readily understood and data are available.

Recent reports put forest damage in central Europe as affecting more than one million hectares. A recent survey carried out in Germany showed that 34 per cent of the total forest area showed damage symptoms from acid rain. Forest damage in North America has, to date, been reported at higher altitudes only. Scientists have discovered a significant reduction over a wide area of the United States at the rate of a tree diameter growth in several species of trees in the last two decades. Acid deposition is a more correct term than acid rain because the acidic level does not fall merely in rain but in any precipitation. The effect of acidic deposition on crops has been researched and underlines the damage done to very sensitive species of food crops.

Our buildings and monuments are being attacked and eroded by acid rain. Lastly, and of paramount importance, we must consider the effect of acid rain on human life itself. It is very difficult to relate the damage directly to human health of air pollution in acid deposition, but it is regarded now within the OECD countries as being significant enough to warrant further research. Senator Catherine McGuinness and others referred to the need for research in this area. It is only in the last number of years that any research has been carried out. We are now building up a bank of new understanding of the phenomenon of acid deposition, how we are contributing to it and how it is accelerating. The precise link between emissions from power plants, industrial sources or vehicles at one point and how they affect another point in a different location, in a different country, is beginning to be understood. We know the correlation now between those emissions and the damage they have often caused in neutral countries not causing the original pollution.

Many countries like ours are innocent victims of another country's industrial programme and have to endure the bad effects of that country's industrial programme without benefiting from it. There is a detrimental effect on our health and environment from the British nuclear programme in Sellafield and the various other nuclear installations that exist throughout the United Kingdom. We do not benefit from the European industrial programme to any great extent. Because of the prevailing winds we do not suffer unduly from acid rain as far as we can ascertain. Its effects are cumulative and we obviously need to address it in a very courageous, straightforward and determined way.

We have learned about the consequential effects of pollution and consequent damage and by studying the climatic patterns we can determine the sources of pollution and quantify what deductions or reductions will mean for an environment in another area. Many things can be done. There are two aspects to addressing the problem. One is by recognising it and taking action against it post factum. For instance, if an acidic lake is polluted by acid rain, which happens in Scandinavia, an approach of liming should be adopted to neutralise the acid rain. That is a reaction to a problem that has already occurred and which has been identified.

A far more effective approach would be to prevent the pollution occurring in the first instance which is easier said than done. The solution to acid deposition is to tackle the source of the problem, that is, to reduce what goes up into the atmosphere. That is the only way one can be sure that too much of the same badness does not come down again. The joint committee report said that in many instances the problem was the cost involved. But there are many factors involved: the choice of fuel, the treatment it undergoes prior to combustion, the combustion process itself, the cleaning of combustion gases before emission and so on. They all contribute to either increasing or reducing the polluting effect of the industry involved. The solutions are there. Many members of the public ask why the problem exists if the pollution is so readily identified and the solution mapped out. However, the cost is significant.

The joint committee report on page 18 said that the benefits of a controlled programme as proposed by the European Commission are not quantifiable owing to the imperfections of the knowledge of both the mechanism of acid rain formation and its effect. The economic consequences for an undeveloped expanding economy such as the Irish one are proportionately much more severe than for relatively stagnant developed economies.

There is a hedging there because there is a mass of detailed scientific knowledge now available. The nettle must be grasped. We must decide that we will do everything within our power to reduce our contribution to the pollution of Europe. It is only in that way that we can have the moral authority to put pressure on our European partners and to the broader economic family of nations to reduce their more serious and more major contribution to pollution and creating acid rain.

For instance, one of the most significant economic programmes we have undertaken in recent times was the Moneypoint project. The ESB suggested in their submission to the joint committee that the cost of installing the necessary equipment to eliminate sulphur and nitrogen oxides from Moneypoint would be as high as £145 million. The board estimate that a further capital cost in the order of £255 million would be involved in modifying all their power stations with a consequent increase in electricity charges to the consumer in excess of 20 per cent. They went on to postulate that, if that occurred and if electricity prices increased by that amount, more people would switch from electricity to solid fuel burning. There would be a spiral; what we would gain on the swings would be lost on the roundabouts. Pollution might be prevented at Moneypoint but more people would burn solid fuel in their homes. Therefore, there would be no serious reduction in pollution. I find that difficult to accept. We either have a determined policy of reducing pollution, taking it step by step, or we do not have it. If we do not have it within our own borders and within the projects that are directly controlled by the State, we have very little moral authority in addressing the situation within the greater industrial nations who obviously contribute so much more to the problems that we have faced.

I welcome the Bill. Senators said it is a framework for action. It is a significant step in addressing a real, major and significant problem.

The evolving role of Ireland would be to sell itself as a clean, fresh nation among a family of nations whose air, water and land is far less wholesome and far less pure than our own. We have to preserve that now and it is most seriously under threat. If you talk to a German, a Dutchman or someone from northern Italy, their image of Ireland is one of freshness, of clean rivers for fishing and unpolluted countryside. We must maintain that image for ourselves and for future generations. We must do that by being courageous now and shouldering the economic cost of preserving something for all generations to come.

I am delighted we have the opportunity to debate the Air Pollution Bill in association with the report of the joint committee on acid rain. This debate comes at a time when there is extreme worry throughout the country as to the effects on the atmosphere as a result of incidents which have occurred in Great Britain, Russia and the Atlantic over the past number of weeks. Unfortunately, we do not have very much control over our atmosphere. Senator Howlin mentioned the fact that people see Ireland as a country with clean air, clean water and an unpolluted countryside. Unfortunately, in many cases the pollution which occurs cannot been seen. It is very easy to see the pollution caused by a smoke stack. Unfortunately, after the Chernobyl incident nobody could look up at the sky and say it was clear and unpolluted and there was no danger. It is unfortunate that as we discuss the Air Pollution Bill we do not have control over the atmosphere. Trans-boundary pollution occurs, trans-country pollution occurs and trans-continental pollution occurs. Although the Air Pollution Bill will solve some of the minor problems associated with pollution it will do very little in terms of reducing the overall level of pollution that is occurring here because of trans-country and trans-continental pollution.

The Bill is extremely limited in the sense that there is no costing put down. The only costings mentioned are the fines that can be imposed on people who pollute in any given situation. The Bill is faulty in that it places the onus of control on local authorities. I am not suggesting that local authorities, if given this control, will act irresponsibly but, nevertheless, when local authorities are starved of funds to deal with the everyday problems of providing sewage control, water and all the types of services people need to place this additional burden on them without stating that they will have the financial resources to deal with the problems is a major flaw in the Bill. At present the control of water is within the ambit of the local authorities who, generally speaking, pass the monitoring on to An Foras Forbartha. The Bill suggests and the Minister has stated that the local authority can give the job of monitoring to an outside body such as An Foras Forbartha or an associated company. To do that the local authority would have to pay a fee. If the local authority decide to do the monitoring themselves, there will be a cost factor for the provision of extra staff. At a time when there are cutbacks in staffing levels, this is not practical. Therefore, the Bill will not be satisfactory unless the Minister can give us some indication as to the funding which will be available to local authorities for the provision of the services which are needed to provide the controls mentioned in it. Most of the Bill is taken up with the responsibilities of the local authority and their methods of monitoring. There is very little in the Bill to give me any great hope that as a result of this Bill our atmosphere will be less polluted than at present.

As I said, the Bill is welcome but it does not go far enough in telling us how the levels of dangerous emissions will be controlled. It does not go far enough as regards the provision of funds. In his speech, the Minister made much of the fact that apart from Dublin, certain areas of Wicklow and the midlands there is no real pollution problem in Ireland. In his speech he makes a comparison between the levels of pollution in London during the smog of 1952 and the levels of pollution in Dublin in 1984. He failed to say that the cause of the smog of 1952 has been totally eliminated. There has not been a smog in London since 1952, so there is no point in comparing the levels of 1952 with the levels of 1984 as far as Dublin is concerned. There is a pollution problem in Dublin associated with smoke. Senator McGuinness rightly said that people who have health problems associated with their lungs and chests would not agree with the attempted lobby of coal distributors. There is a problem in Dublin at present and anybody walking through the streets can see it: where buildings have been cleaned, within days you can see the build up of pollutants.

In discussing this Bill we have to take into account the major problems associated with the nuclear industry and those they can cause for us. The nuclear industry is self-protective and narcissist in a sense. The experts all come from the nuclear industry and there is nobody outside the nuclear industry who can say what is going on and what damage can be caused by the proliferation of nuclear plants. We have been told that the effect of Chernobyl will not be of major consequence. In 1973, a study was done in America on reactor safety by Professor Norman Rasmussen, Dean of Engineering at MIT, who with a staff of 50 poured $4 million into a research programme to find out what the likely problems arising from a nuclear accident would be. At present we are being told that there will not be any fall-out damage from the Chernobyl incident. In 1973, it was estimated that for every ten prompt deaths — this is about the level of death there was in the Chernobyl incident — there would eventually be 7,000 cancer deaths, 4,000 genetic defects and 60,000 thyroid abnormalities as well as the contamination of some 3,000 square miles of land. The contamination of 3,000 square miles of land is a fact. We know that ten people, approximately, died immediately as a result of Chernobyl and if the figures of Professor Rasmussen are correct we can expect over the next number of years to have major health problems throughout Europe.

Debate adjourned.