Galway City Council is investigating complaints that a number of householders on the east side are flouting the city’s ban on smoky coal, according to Independent councillor Terry O’Flaherty.
Cllr O’Flaherty raised the issue with council officials after being contacted by a number of people who were concerned that the burning of the banned coal was posing a real threat to their health.
"One family who contacted me have a three-year-old boy and a 10-month-old baby," she said. "They told me the air quality is so bad they can’t open their windows from mid-afternoon and rarely go outside for fresh air in the evenings. The three-year-old — who was previously an extremely healthy child — had a first ever episode of asthmatic viral wheeze requiring hospitalisation in September, and he has had less serious episodes on and off since then."
Serious health risks
On Monday, City Hall confirmed that community wardens would carry out an inspection of the the area, in the location where the complainants reside. Cllr O’Flaherty has welcomed this development and added that she would like to see the investigation extended into other areas as well.
At meetings of the council's climate, environment, and amenity committee, Cllr O'Flaherty has asked for the selling of smoky coal - which largely takes place in the evenings and weekends - to be monitored, especially as air pollution from smoky coal has become worse this winter.
'People living in areas of high pollution are 15 per cent more likely to die from Covid-19, as coal particles in the air prolong the time infectious viruses survive in the air'
"This is probably down to more people staying at home and fires being set earlier that they would normally be," said Cllr O'Flaherty, "but this is a deadly serious matter — 1,300 people in Ireland died prematurely in 2019 as a result of air pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and there’s an added risk in the middle of the current pandemic."
She also cited international studies which have indicated that people living in areas of high pollution are 15 per cent more likely to die from Covid-19, and that coal particles in the air prolong the time infectious viruses survive in the air.
Cllr O'Flaherty said those buying smoky coal did so because it generally produced more heat than smokeless coal. “I don’t think they realise the damage they are doing," she said. "People’s lives and health are at stake here. If this message got through to those who are breaking the law, most would immediately stop putting their neighbours at risk."