No Smoke Without Fire – How Clean is the Air We Breathe?

Is our air safe to breathe? Is our air safe to breathe? Many people across Down are complaining of poor air quality and poorer health. [/caption] It may sound as though I am trying to build a conspiracy theory but there does appear a strong correlation between the reporting of the gas reports and my own condition for example. Many people have commented that they could not understand the sudden changes in health conditions of themselves and the ones they care for, including their children. I checked with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and they only said that they do not keep statistics on the numbers of chest complaints etc they treat but they did confirm an increase in the numbers of respiratory illnesses treated due to “flu like illnesses“. DOE Says High Air Pollution Monitored in Northern Ireland  The statement below was issued by the DOE press office on 6 March 2o13. (I am re-posting it). Urban centres and rural areas in Northern Ireland are currently experiencing high levels of air pollution, with high to very high levels being monitored in the Armagh, Belfast, Lisburn, Lough Navar and Newry areas.  Moderate levels of pollution are being monitored in the Ballymena, Derry/Londonderry and North Down areas. This localised air pollution is likely to be associated with the build up of emissions from vehicles and home heating during the current calm, cold weather conditions experienced across Northern Ireland. The forecast is for levels of air pollution to decline with the arrival of wetter, more unsettled weather over the next few days; however, if weather conditions turn out to be drier than forecast, then there is the risk of higher levels. During periods of high air pollution the symptoms of people with lung or heart disease may worsen. Healthy people are unlikely to experience any ill effects. Hourly updates on levels of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide are available on the Department’s website at and the Department’s freephone helpline 0800 556 677, which also offers health advice to those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution. Extra Notes:  Air pollution is described as “low (1-3)”, “moderate (4-6)”, “high (7-9)” or “Very High (10)” in relation to the presence of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone. Classifications are based upon the pollutant in the highest band based upon the advice of the independent Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution. Health Advice The Following advice was also passed on by DOE NI on health and applies when air pollution is “high” or “very high” *  When pollution is high, sensitive people may notice their symptoms worsen and may need to act to reduce the symptoms or their exposure to the pollution. Asthmatics will find that their symptoms will ease through use of their relief inhaler in the usual way advised by their doctor. Others affected by the pollution may wish to reduce the time they spend outdoors or avoid busy, congested streets. If symptoms persist, affected people should consult with their doctor. Action individuals can take to reduce pollution *  We can all contribute to reducing the current high levels by avoiding burning solid fuels if possible, by burning only smokeless fuels in smoke control areas. It is also important to avoid lighting bonfires while pollution levels are high. *  Road vehicles are a major source of many pollutants in urban areas. Before using your car ask yourself – do I really need to make this journey? Do I really need to use the car, or could I walk or cycle? *  If you must drive, switch off the engine if you expect to be stationary for more than a couple of minutes, and drive smoothly – it will save you fuel and money and you will emit less pollution.  So – what is the conclusion? Is air pollution causing or making worse these symptoms that people have complained about ????? What some people said to Down News about air quality and their health. *  I have been in and out of hospital more with my chronic asthma more than usual. *  My asthma has definitely been worse these past few weeks. *  I have seen kid’s wheezing a lot more recently. *  I never get the flu but have ben badly dozed this winter. It seems to be lingering. *  I’ve a terrible chest infecction. *  My baby has bronchitis. *  A health professional says there is something in this argument. *  When the planes were grounded during the Iceland Volcano episode my chest condition improved. So – what is causing the poor air quality? Power stations, gas emissions from cars, burning carbon fuels for domestic heating complicated by winter weather factors.  And the general lack of environmental awareness!       ]]>