Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (512)

Anne Rabbitte


512. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health his views on the health consequences arising from the delay in implementing a nationwide smoky coal ban; when he last raised the issue directly with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment; when he is scheduled to meet the Minister or his officials to discuss the issue; if his attention has been drawn to the recent report by the EPA on air quality here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44546/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Air Quality is an important environmental determinant of health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report Air Quality in Ireland 2018, which was published in September, has estimated that poor air quality causes up to 1,180 premature deaths per annum in Ireland.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has a priority to identify and advise the general public on strategies to reduce their risk of adverse effects during episodes of poor air quality. To this end, the HSE and the EPA established a collaboration to look at the relationship between short-term changes in ambient air quality and hospital admissions due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in Dublin city and county between 2014 and 2018. The Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) was the measure used for ambient air quality (Available URL: http://www.epa.ie/air/quality/index/) . The preliminary findings from this work have highlighted that the ambient air quality in Dublin is predominantly good (i.e. Good: 96%; Fair: 3%; Poor: 1%; and Very poor: < 1%). Other findings are comparable to reports within the literature, but uniquely show the Irish experience. The report is currently being finalised for publication.

Extending the ban on the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality, particularly in built up areas. However, my Department has been advised by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment that a number of coal firms have indicated that they would challenge the proposal to expand the smoky coal ban nationally. This is particularly disappointing, given the impact poor air quality can have on human health and the environment and the emphasis the Government is putting on transitioning to a low carbon society. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is in contact with the Attorney General on this matter.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I engage on a regular basis.