Extent Of NI's Air Pollution Problem Uncovered

The Green Party has warned that polluted and poisonous air across areas of Northern Ireland is contributing to illness and early death.

An investigation by party activist groups across the Belfast and Ards & North Down areas found that dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide (N02) were in the air- with levels breaching legal limits at 29 sites.

The levels of N02 were monitored for several weeks. The toxic gas inflames the lining of the lungs.

The air quality samples were collected using diffusion tubes situated at over 100 sites then processed and analysed by an independent laboratory. At present, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs tests air quality at 18 sites across Northern Ireland with nine in the greater Belfast area.

The results found levels of NO2 pollution breaching legal limits at 29 sites across Belfast and North Down. Particularly high readings were recorded outside the Royal Victoria Hospital and at the Belfast Metropolitan College Millfield Campus.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey commented on the results, highlighting the health risks of over-exposure to the chemical. She said: "This is an important study alerting us to an air pollution emergency across Belfast and beyond. Clean air is a human right but many of us are breathing in heavily polluted and poisonous air each and every day.
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"Air pollution is often invisible with residents in heavily polluted areas not realising the extend of the problem and the resulting health impacts. Some of the most concerning levels of NO2 were recorded across inner city working class communities, with heavy traffic prevalent.

"The scientific evidence on the effects of air pollution is well documented and mounting. Respiratory symptoms, asthma prevalence and certain types of cancer can all be attributed to air pollution. Moreover, new studies have linked the problem with dementia and complications during pregnancy."

The south Belfast MLA called for transport reform to reduce the amount of cars on the road and lower the damage caused to air quality in built up areas.

"Urgent action is required to address this public health emergency. N02 pollution is closely linked with vehicle emissions, particularly diesel engines. A green transport strategy aimed at reducing the number of vehicles on our roads and increasing access to public transport is long overdue," she explained.

"The Department must also commit to increased air quality monitoring. Eighteen testing sites across Northern Ireland is inadequate. Communities are suffering from the poisonous effects of air pollution often without realising the harmful effects of the air they are breathing.

"I also want to see the introduction of a Clean Air Act which enshrines clean air as a human right and updates the legislation for modern fuels and technologies to reduce harmful air emissions and protect human health and the environment."


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