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What is Clean Air Together?

Clean Air Together involves members of the public and the business community measuring Cork’s air quality.

It is a citizen science project where approximately 1,000 participants are recording levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution in their local area. It is a joint project between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce.

This will give us a better understanding of air pollution across Cork and help to improve air quality in the future.

How to remove and return your measurement tube for analysis

For approximately a 4-week period during October 2022 - approximately 1,000 selected participants are measuring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as follows:

  • Participants are installing a measurement tube outside their chosen location from the 3rd to the 27th of October.
  • The tube will measure the average NO2 levels over that period.
  • On the completion date, participants will take down their tube and post it back (in a self-addressed pre-paid envelope) to the laboratory for analysis.
  • Participants will get their results from us and we’ll create an interactive map on this website displaying all the results to the public.
  • In early 2023, you will be able to see how Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels compare across Cork City.

For full details on how to remove and return your measurement tube for analysis, please watch our short video above and follow the guidelines 

See Air Quality Measurements Near You - in early 2023

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Measurements (Phase) - Approximately 1,000 citizen participants have measured the air pollutant, NO2, in their area in Cork City.

In early 2023, we will be displaying the results here on an interactive map so people can view how much NO2 was in their area during that 4-week period in October 2022.

The data from Clean Air Together (Cork City) will be combined with air quality data from the EPA’s monitoring network to give a bigger and better picture of air quality in Cork City.

These data points will be used to check EPA air quality computer models. These computer models will help to better understand air quality in Cork. 

The project aims to increase awareness of air quality, inform and affect policy and change attitudes to air quality issues.  The project also aims to encourage behavioural change that will lead to better air quality for us all.

What is Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)?

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Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a pollutant gas that mainly comes from vehicle traffic. You can find out more about it on our page – Why is Air Quality Important?

Being exposed to NO2 gas, even just for short periods, can have harmful effects on our health and wellbeing. EPA monitoring and computer modelling show that in some urban areas NO2 pollution is increasing. It will be important to remain vigilant to increasing NO2 levels, particularly from transport in urban centres when the economy grows. 

Why is Air Quality Important?

 

Air is of huge importance to life in all its forms. When we breathe, we absorb a lot of what is in the air into our bodies. In general, the more particles or gases in the air we breathe that are unhealthy for us (called pollutants), the unhealthier we are. If we want to stay healthy, we must ensure we have air that is as free from pollutants as possible. The less pollutants in the air the better our air quality. While progress has been made in making our air cleaner, much more needs to be done to improve our air quality.  Poor air quality is responsible for significant public health impacts and environmental damage. So, making our air cleaner really matters.

 

Where do pollutants in the air come from?


While natural events may affect air quality, day to day human activities have a greater impact. In Ireland emissions from:

  • Home heating
  • Transport
  • Agriculture and
  • Energy generation

all contribute to poorer air quality throughout the year.

 

What is the air quality like in Ireland?

Air quality in Ireland is generally good, however, there are concerning localised issues that are impacting negatively on the air we breathe. The levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) mainly from burning solid fuel in our homes, and nitrogen dioxide (NO) mainly from road transport, remain the main threats to good air quality.

In Ireland the levels of PM2.5 and NO2 are within the current EU legal limits, however these pollutants exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality guidelines (AQGs) for health. Meeting these AQGs will be a major challenge.

All levels of air pollutants can do serious damage to our health. For example, currently, air pollution in Ireland leads to the premature death of three people, on average, a day. (More details of real-time air pollution data are available from the EPA at: Home | AirQuality.ie

What are levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) like in Ireland?

Animated image of traffic in a circle for Clean Air Together Cork City

The EPA measures air pollution regularly. It also uses computers to predict how much pollution there will be in the future. These show that in some urban areas NO2 pollution is increasing. There has been no exceedance of the EU limit value recorded in Cork for this pollutant yet, however it will be important to remain vigilant to increasing NO2 levels. This is particularly the case in urban centres from transport when the economy grows.  Find out more in the section below - "What Can You Do"

 

How does poor air quality affect us?

 

Poor air quality has serious health implications. Children, the elderly and citizens suffering from asthma and respiratory conditions are most affected. In the short term, exposure to NO2 is linked to airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in asthmatics. Over the long term, NO2 exposure is linked to increased risk of respiratory infection in children.

Air pollution also impacts the environment. It affects the quality of fresh water, soil, and ecosystems. Air pollution can also damage materials and buildings. Some air pollutants behave like greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

A European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis estimates that more than 400,000 premature deaths were attributable to poor air quality in the EU in 2016. In Ireland, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution, (particulate matter), is estimated at 1,300 people. The World Health Organisation has described air pollution as the ‘single biggest environmental health risk’.

 

 

If you care about your own, your family’s and your community’s health, then you should care about air quality

What Can You Do?

To ensure healthy air quality for all, we need to stop the ways our society creates air pollution. These changes need to come at every level of society for that to happen. Companies, governments, communities, individuals, all have a role to play. You can do your part in many ways. Here are some of them:

 

 

1. Support the Clean Air Together Project

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If you’re not a participant in the measurement part of the project, you can still follow the project, and tell others about it. You can learn more about what you can do for air quality and keep up to date with the project through this website. We will share all the results here when they are available. You can share our social media messaging in the footer section at the end, below. For Clean Air Together to work best, we need everyone to take actions together.

2. Push for policies that provide solutions to air pollution.

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Government and industry policy can have a huge impact on the levels of pollution in the air. These policies can support:

  • Clean public transport systems*
  • More incentives for electric cars*
  • Pedestrian and cycle-friendly networks*
  • More energy-efficient buildings
  • Restrictions on solid fuel use systems
  • City or district heating
  • Updating of old heating systems

* These are the main actions that will reduce NO2 

Raise any concerns with your local public representative. This may help get their support for cleaner air and healthier communities.

3. Choose cleaner alternatives for getting around.

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  • Change your travel behaviour and try to walk or cycle on shorter trips, instead of using your car. This emits zero emissions and is a step towards a healthier lifestyle. Enquire with your company about the Bike to Work scheme, safe and secure cycle parking and changing facilities at work.
  • Consider public transport as a more sustainable alternative to the private car.
  • Can you make your journeys using cleaner transport options? Could you consider an electric vehicle for your next purchase?
  • Alter your driving habits and switch off your engine when your vehicle is stopped. This helps to reduce NO2 emissions and reduce the amount of pollution pedestrians and cyclists will breathe in from your vehicle.
  • Support flexible working arrangements such as home working to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

4. Move to cleaner ways of heating your home, if you can

Is there an alternative way to heat your house than an open fire or stove? If you do use these, think about how you could be more efficient with the heat you have with these tips for heat efficiency.

5. Make your house more energy efficient

There are plenty of ways for your house to contribute less to air pollution. There also SEAI grants that will help you to do this.

6. Share the message

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Tell others about what you have learned and what you have done. You can do this in many ways including through telling your family and friends, or through social media.

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has
Margaret Mead (Anthropologist).

Who is responsible for Clean Air Together?

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Clean Air Together is a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce.

Has this type of project been carried out before?

Many citizen science projects on air quality have been run all over the world. This project was inspired by an experiment called CurieuzeNeuzen (Curious Noses) in Belgium and this time last year, Clean Air Together in Dublin took place. The Belgian project was the largest ever European Air Quality test. It was a fantastic success with impacts for society, science, policy and awareness in Flanders while in Dublin – we were overwhelmed with the interest and success in Clean Air Together, receiving 2,500 expressions of interest when originally targeted 1,000 participants. We hope that we will have a similar success in Cork City. Find out more about the Belgian project at curieuzeneuzen.be.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has
Margaret Mead (Anthropologist)