The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs issued warnings in the north west of Northern Ireland for ‘high and moderate’ air pollution levels on Sunday night (11 December). It added that the current weather situation may cause the pollution to persist.
During periods of high pollution, whilst generally healthy people are said to be unlikely to experience adverse affects, the symptoms of people with lung or heart disease may worsen.
Environment Spokesperson John Blair MLA stated: “The warnings that air pollution has reached the highest possible level in parts of the north west are a stark reminder of the need for urgent action on air quality. Worse still is that the outgoing minister denied increased funding for more air quality monitoring sites, leaving us uncertain about the exact levels of air pollution across all localities.
“This is also a reminder of the failure thus far to deliver a Clean Air Strategy, including low emission zones and consistency of approach to smoke control across Council areas.
“This is another area where inaction penalises people; we simply cannot afford not to act quickly on such issues.”
Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA added: “We are now more than aware of the seriously detrimental impact of poor air quality on public health, including on the prevalence of respiratory diseases such as COPD.
“Although some measures have been taken over the years to improve the situation, particularly with regard to cleaner energy and reduced smoking, there remains a huge amount of work to be done.
“The impact on both the environment and on health is why action to improve air quality features not just in the Alliance Party’s ‘Green New Deal’ proposals, but is also placed at the forefront of our ‘Fighting Fit’ document on health and well-being. Our specific policies include improving the air quality alert system, a Lung Health Strategy, and a single integrated service to prevent and intervene quickly on respiratory disease, including by improving air quality.
“It is time we were back round the table taking responsibility for delivery on such high priority matters which affect our common well-being.”