Highly Polluting Smoky Solid Fuels To Be Banned In Ireland In 2022

Strict standards for domestic solid fuels are to be introduced within a year, meaning the most polluting of home-heating fuels will no longer be available.

The regulations, which are currently being finalised, will effectively put in place a national smoky coal ban in an effort to curb air pollution and its impact on public health.

They are expected to be in place by September of next year.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said he is making the announcement now to allow solid fuel suppliers to plan accordingly and continue to invest in less polluting alternatives.

The regulations, which are currently being finalised, will effectively put in place a national smoky coal ban in an effort to curb air pollution and its impact on public health

The new solid fuel standards 

From 2022, the following new standards for solid fuels will apply in Ireland:

  • Coal, coal-based products, any manufactured solid fuel or peat briquettes will be required to have a smoke emission rate of less than 10g/hour, reducing to 5g/hour by 2025;
  • It is not proposed to make any changes to the smoke emission rate for biomass products (that contain coal), as this is already set at 5g/hour;
  • The sulphur content permitted for all fuels will be reduced from 2% to 1% over time;
  • Wood sold in single units under 2m³ will be required to have a moisture content of 25% or less (moving to 20% within four years) and wet wood sold over these volumes will be required to come with instructions for the purchaser on how to dry this wood;
  • In order to accommodate those with rights to harvest sod peat, no ban on its burning will be introduced. However, a regulatory regime to reduce its harm in more urbanised areas is under examination.

Poor air quality contributes to some 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland each year due to air pollution from solid fuel burning.

“When this Government was formed, we gave a commitment to tackle air pollution caused by domestic solid fuel burning, and we remain committed to doing so,” Mr Ryan said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said the main source of dangerous pollution is the smoke from solid fuel burning in people homes for heating.

Medical research has demonstrated links between air pollution and health conditions, both short and long term including headache, breathing difficulty, eye irritation, exacerbation of respiratory conditions and increased levels of strokes, cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Currently, the public is unable to buy smoky coal in more than 40 towns and cities across the country, but that will change by winter of next year when the regulations extend restrictions beyond these designated areas.

Mr Ryan added: “In the meantime, I trust that people will take note of the messages in the forthcoming public awareness campaign I am announcing today, and take these simple steps to bring about better air quality and improved health for all. 

“During this period, people are being empowered to make a conscious, personal choice to contribute to cleaner air and a healthier environment.”

Irish Heart Foundation

The strict measures on the burning of solid fuels in homes will “reduce the number of lives lost to dirty air”, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

Welcome the new regulations the charity says the measures will have a significant impact on this “largely preventable loss of life” as well as improving overall levels of public health.

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “There is simply no safe level of exposure to air pollution, and while these updated domestic solid fuel regulations still permit the burning of some solid fuel with stricter standards, they are a huge step in the right direction.”

The charity is now calling on the Government to allocate funds in the upcoming budget for authorities to enforce these new domestic solid fuel regulations.

(Source – Irish Examiner – News – Gregg Murphy – 07/09/2021)

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