Fixing North Dublin’s air pollution problem

Air pollution expert, Deirdre O’Brien, talks about some of the measures that can be taken to improve air quality in North Dublin

It is well known by locals that the junction at Doyle’s Corner, Phibsborough, and the surrounding area has some of the worst air quality in Ireland. 

The European Union’s air quality directive allows for 40 μg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide to be released into the atmosphere every hour in a specific area.  

A study conducted by Google with the Dublin City Council found that Doyle’s Corner far exceeds this limit and can reach up to 60 μg/m3 on an average day.  

This high level of nitrogen dioxide is primarily caused by the large number of petrol and diesel vehicles that pass through the area every day, along with a lack of green spaces that help to absorb nitrogen dioxide.  

Poor air quality can cause several issues such as increased respiratory problems, reduced quality of life and of course, environmental damage.  

Alleviating this issue can be a matter of life and death, as an estimated 725 people die in Dublin every year due to pollution from airborne particles

“The most efficient way to reduce air pollution is to get cars off the road, but that simply isn’t workable in some areas,” says Deirdre O’Brien of Verde Environmental Group, a consultancy firm. “At Doyle’s Corner there are thousands of cars passing through there every day, so you can’t just stick in a cycle lane and say problem solved. We need to come up with more workable solutions. 

“We need to discourage people from driving using other, more sustainable measures. Introducing low emission zones, where polluting vehicles pay a fee to enter certain areas where air quality bad, has been in done in many cities but they have also faced backlash.

“If you live and drive in the city and are on low income, you’re most affected – and often these people aren’t the biggest polluters,” O’Brien says.

“We need to have financial incentives, rather than disincentives to get cars off roads. I think if car insurers were to introduce lower prices for those who use their vehicles less regularly, which has been discussed, it would go a long way to reducing car usage.” 

O’Brien suggests other easier measures that can be implemented. “There’s carpooling. If you live nearby to someone you work with, sharing a ride with them helps to reduce your emissions and saves on petrol. There are also apps where you can find people who take the same route to work as you and you can arrange to car-share.

“Many households also have and make use of fireplaces. We know that it’s difficult, especially with energy costs, but fireplaces can have a huge negative impact on air quality and by using them less you can go a long way to reducing pollution in the area.” 

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