Burning bituminous ‘smoky’ coal produces particulate matter of which a significant constituent is sulphur in the form of sulphate. Limiting the sulphur content of ‘smoky’ coal helps to protect human health and the environment by reducing air pollution.
Irish research has shown that excessive smoke pollution is associated with an increase in hospital admissions, increased morbidity and peak in mortality. It may cause irritation to the eyes and throat and chronic effects include decreased pulmonary function. Air pollution legislation introduced a ban on the use of ‘smoky’ coal in city areas and has dramatically improved the air quality. Research carried out at St James hospital in Dublin showed that the ban resulted in a decrease in respiratory mortality. Amendments were made to the legislation in 2012 to increase the areas which have a ban on the use of ‘smoky’ coal.
Regulation S.I. No. 326 Air Pollution Act (Marketing, sale, distribution and burning of specified fuels) regulations 2012 was brought in to replace and make amendments to the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and distribution of Fuels), which related to the ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of specified bituminous (or ‘smoky’) fuels within low smoke zones in Ireland. Initially the ban included low smoke zones in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Arklow, Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Celbridge, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dundalk, Ennis, Kilkenny, Leixlip, Naas, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford. However, the new regulations have made boundary revisions that have enlarged existing areas and included new areas like Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Wicklow-Rathnew. The occupier of any private dwelling located within a low smoke zone shall not burn any specified fuel.
Under these Regulations, all bituminous (‘smoky’) coal supplied for residential heating outside low smoke zones where the ban applies must ensure that;
- the sulphur content is no greater than 0.7% by weight, and
- Coal bagging operators and fuel suppliers who supply smoky coal must register with the EPA
More information is available on the EPA website: http://www.epa.ie/air/quality