Clean air is essential for our quality of life. While recent decades have seen significant improvements in air quality in Ireland, air pollution continues to cause damage to both our health and environment. The EPA’s annual ‘Air Quality in Ireland’ reports consistently state that Ireland’s air quality is generally good, but that some localised areas of concern remain. These arise mainly from residential and transport emissions.
In addition, the European Environment Agency states that air pollution is linked to approx. 1,400 premature deaths in Ireland each year. This is up to ten times the number of people who die on our roads. These deaths arise from health conditions which are linked to air pollution, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases.
A range of air quality legislation is therefore in place in Ireland to protect our air quality and safeguard the health of all.
Air Quality Monitoring
Air quality monitoring in Ireland is led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP). Real-time and historic data from all monitoring stations across the State is available at all times at www.airquality.ie
In addition, the EPA operates an Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH), which runs on a scale from 1 (Good) to 10 (Very Poor). The latest AQIH for all monitoring station locations is also available at all times at www.airquality.ie
Air Quality Legislation & Enforcement
Laois County Council has monitoring and enforcement responsibilities and powers under a range of Air Quality legislation, including:
- The Air Pollution Act 1987 (Solid Fuels) Regulations 2022 (I. No. 529 of 2022)
- The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 (I. No. 286 of 2009)
- The European Union (Paints, Varnishes, Vehicle Refinishing Products and Activities) Regulations 2012 (I. No. 564 of 2012)
- The European Union (Installations and Activities Using Organic Solvents) Regulation 2012 (I. No. 565 of 2012)
- The Air Pollution Act 1987 (Petroleum Vapour Emissions) Regulations 1997 (I. No. 375 of 1997)
- The Air Pollution Act 1987
Solid Fuels Regulations
The current Solid Fuels Regulations took effect from 31 October 2022, and apply equally across the State.
The primary focus of these regulations is on improving air quality and improving people’s health outcomes, by restricting the retail, online and commercial sale of smoky fuels, including smoky coal, turf and wet wood. These fuels are proven to be a major contributor to air pollution in Ireland.
The thresholds which now apply are:
- Coal products and manufactured solid fuels must have a smoke emission rate of less than 10 grams per hour. This is the same as was previously in force in Low Smoke Zones.
- Manufactured part biomass products must have a smoke emission rate of less than 5 grams per hour.
- Coal products and manufactured solid fuels, including manufactured part biomass products, must have a sulphur content of less than 2% by weight on a dry ash-free basis, and subject to a market assessment, from 1 September 2025 this will be reduced to 1%.
- Fuel products which are 100% biomass products (including wood products and wood logs), supplied in units of two cubic metres or less, must have a moisture content of less than 25% (from 1 September 2025, this will be reduced to less than 20%).
- Wood logs supplied in units of two cubic metres or more must now be accompanied by a notice outlining the need to store and season wet wood until it is sufficiently dried.
- It is now not possible to sell turf via retail, online or other media, in public houses or other public places.
The Regulations also place certain obligations on producers, importers, and retailers of solid fuels.
The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has produced and regularly updates dedicated FAQs for the following sectors:
- Producers and importers of firewood
- Producers and importers of other solid fuels
- Couriers & haulage companies
- Media companies
These may be found at www.gov.ie/cleanair
The videos below help to raise awareness of the solid fuel regulations, and ask people to think twice before lighting a fire if they also have other forms of heat available:
Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning Regulations
These Regulations make it an offence to dispose of waste by burning it, except in certain prescribed conditions which must be approved by the Local Authority.
Note that while such burning is often referred to as ‘Backyard Burning’, as in outdoor burning of waste (including agricultural/horticultural waste), the Regulations also make it an offence to burn domestic waste in a fireplace, stove, or other appliance.
Further information is available under our waste section (link to https://laois.ie/departments/environment/waste-recycling/burning/), on the EPA website and in the video below:
DecoPaints and Solvents Regulations
The Decorative Paints Regulations and Solvents Regulations limit the volatile organic compounds (VOC) content of widely-used paint products and solvents, as VOCs pose a risk to health and the environment.
Motor factors, vehicle refinishers, paint suppliers and dry cleaners are the main sectors that are subject to these Regulations.
The Local Authority’s main roles in this area are to issue certificates to compliant users, and to pursue non-registered or non-compliant users.
Further information is available from the EPA website at:
Petroleum Vapour Emissions Regulations
These Regulations put controls on petroleum vapour emissions resulting from the storage and distribution of petrol which is intended for use as fuel in motor vehicles. Facility owners and operators are obliged to ensure that their facility is designed and operated in accordance with these Regulations.
All petrol station owners are required to engage the services of an independent approved assessor to carry out an assessment of the vapour recovery system at the service station, and to then apply to the Local Authority for a certificate.
Air Pollution Act, 1987
Section 24 of the Air Pollution Act, 1987 lays down a general obligation on minimising and preventing emissions:
- The occupier of any premises, other than a private dwelling, shall use the best practicable means to limit and, if possible, to prevent an emission from such premises.
- The occupier of any premises shall not cause or permit an emission from such premises in such a quantity, or in such a manner, as to be a nuisance.
The Act also confers Local Authorities with the powers to take appropriate enforcement action where this is breached. This may include prosecutions and fines of up to €5,000 on summary conviction.