‘You’re breathing in fumes’ - Dublin residents trying to deal with pollution

People aware of city’s poor air quality, think more should be done to tackle pollution

James Boland in the Brother Hubbard café on Capel Street

James Boland in the Brother Hubbard café on Capel Street

 

James Boland in the Brother Hubbard cafe on Capel Street in Dublin’s city centre is not surprised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s warning that nitrogen dioxide levels frequently exceed dangerous levels.

“It’s something we’re quite aware of,” said the co-owner of the busy cafe,”You see it very readily when you’re just cleaning the windows every day of the week, the muck that comes off the windows is a good example of how bad it can be.”

In its report, the EPA said numerous air-testing stations throughout the city have recorded NO2 levels that breach the European Union’s recommended 40 micrograms per cubic metre limit.

Nitrogen dioxide affects the throat and lung, causing emphysema and cellular damage in the worst cases. High level exposures over short periods can cause aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases, particularly asthma.

Paul McQuaid, who owns the River Cycles Bike Shop on Usher’s Island
Paul McQuaid, who owns the River Cycles Bike Shop on Usher’s Island

Longer exposures to elevated concentrations of NO2 may contribute to the development of asthma, the EPA warns, saying potentially increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

People with asthma, as well as children and the elderly are generally at greater risk for the health effects of NO2. Irish emissions have been increasing, largely on the back of heavier traffic.

Lack of safe cycling lanes

On the quays, one of the more polluted areas identified by the EPA, Bill Kerrigan (54) from Crumlin stood waiting for a bus. “You can see just how blocked up the street is. If you’re waiting for a bus you’re breathing in all those fumes.”

Cycling is off-limits to many because of the lack of safe cycling lanes and overcrowded roads, he complains:“I got a bike recently and I’ve only used it once,” he told The Irish Times. “I’m scared to get on it again.”

Paul McQuaid, who owns the River Cycles Bike Shop on Usher’s Island on the south quays, has cycled to work for the last 17 years, but agrees that there are risks for people if they decide to pedal to work.

“It’s just a disgrace that this isn’t a cycle-friendly city,” he said. McQuaid noted the irony of Dublin hosting Velo-City, the international cycling conference held in late June, saying not enough had been done to improve cycle-lanes in the city.

‘Black with soot’

Along Pearse Street, where all four testing sites located on the busy street reported higher-than-permitted NO2 limits, Terence Clifford, owner of Terence Clifford Antiques, notices the poor air quality.

He often puts coloured chairs out on the footpath in front of his shop. By night-time, they are “black with soot.” However, he is not convinced that more buses will solve the problem: “I reckon [they] are the biggest polluters,” he said.