Note: This article was updated on 26th January 2021 to include air quality measurements from local schools
In The Before Times, in Dublin City-centre, you couldn’t fail to notice the difference in air quality, especially on hot, dry days with no wind. Although, Dublin is actually pretty good when compared with some of our European neighbours.
This illustration, from airquality.ie shows NO2 levels, which is one of a collection of gases that affect air quality.
In Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors air quality continuously, at 84 stations located throughout the country.
As you can see, air quality is generally quite good in this snapshot. But air quality varies due to a number of factors, including:
- time of day / season
- geography (concentrations of pollutants can be greater in valleys than for areas of higher ground)
- weather conditions
We’re lucky to have a monitoring station in Navan, and it provides some useful data.
The air quality monitoring station is located at the Fire Station on the Kells road and provides detailed data on an hourly basis.
Here’s a snapshot of the NO2 levels recently. As you can see, the levels vary between day and night time, and there are peaks that correspond to morning and evening traffic.
But what does this mean?
Here’s the “Air Quality Index for Health”:
We can use the Nitrogen Dioxide column to see the air quality in Navan. A peak of around 70 is level 3 in the Air Quality Index, in the Good section.
So this is telling us that, in Navan, at this time in October, the air quality was good. End of story?
The Problem: Idling Cars
Idling in a car creates worse emissions than driving because when a car is being driven, the engine heats up faster, allowing the catalytic converter to be more efficient at reducing emissions. This means that where you have several cars stopped, all with the engine running, the air quality can be significantly worse.
For the average person, that’s not great. For children and young people, however, the effects are even greater. As their bodies are still developing, the impacts of air pollution on younger people — such as stunted lung growth and function — include irreversible damage that can lead to problems later in life.
When you combine idling cars with children, this is a recipe for disaster. And yet, this is what happens every day at schools throughout Navan.
What’s being done?
Some schools in Navan are engaged in The Green Schools programme, which includes a component on air quality. Two of these schools are:
- Loreto St Michael’s
- St Joseph’s of Mercy Navan
Both of these schools have been carefully measuring the air quality at their schools.
Update Update 26th January 2021
Unfortunately the tubes from Loreto didn’t arrive at the An Taisce lab, but there are results from St. Joseph’s of Mercy.
|School Name||Tube Number||NO2 Result µg/m3|
|St Joseph’s of Mercy Navan||1645880||10.67|
|St Joseph’s of Mercy Navan||1645822||14.62|
|St Joseph’s of Mercy Navan||1645858||12.52|
Each result represents an average NO2 concentration, expressed in micrograms (µg) per cubic metre of air (m3), that was captured over a four-week period at the school.
What Do the Results Mean?
The results reflect the average NO2 level at that measuring location for a short period of time, simply a snapshot of ambient NO2 pollution levels in the air. The results do not capture hourly or daily lows and highs, but they do indicate a general level of NO2 pollution for the period.
It is now becoming apparent that there is no safe level of pollution, with long term exposure of low to medium levels of NO2 being associated with health impacts – see recent ESRI research
The Solution: Don’t let your car idle near a school!
What Can You Do?
- Switch off your engine when waiting at school
- Better yet, consider walking or cycling to school. People like you do it every day
- If your school isn’t part of the Green Schools initiative, please talk to the principal. It’s easy to start, and the folks at Green Schools are super-helpful
- Subscribe to our newsletter, to get the latest information about what we’re doing to improve the environment for all of us