National Physical Laboratory

Air quality in Northern Ireland

A new study on air pollution in Northern Ireland has been published by the Department of the Environment.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are highly carcinogenic compounds, which may occur in ambient air as a result of mainly anthropogenic activities. The Air Quality Fourth Daughter Directive sets Target Values for PAHs in ambient air. PAHs most commonly arise as a result of combustion of carboniferous fuels, with coal burning producing the greatest amounts.

The Department of the Environment (DOE) in Northern Ireland, commissioned NPL to examine the levels of PAH monitored in Northern Ireland, and carry out modelling work so that levels of PAHs across Northern Ireland could be estimated. NPL also provided a cost benefit analysis to assess a range of abatement strategies. The full report can be downloaded from the DOE website. NPL also presented the finding of the report to thirty stakeholders in Northern Ireland.

The research has estimated that there may be widespread exceedences of EC Target Values for PAHs in urban centres across Northern Ireland, many of which are within designated Smoke Control Areas; it has also shown that the majority of PAH emissions in Northern Ireland are from residential coal burning and other solid fuel use.

NPL also operates the UK PAH Monitoring and Analysis Network, on behalf of Defra and the Devolved Administrations, to measure PAHs concentrations at 31 sites throughout the UK.

Find out more about NPL's Air Quality Networks

Find out more about NPL's Sustainability work

For more information, please contact David Butterfield or Richard Brown

Last Updated: 29 Oct 2012
Created: 23 Feb 2012


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