Preventing Disease

Growing evidence suggests that premature death and disease can be prevented through healthier environments – and to a significant degree. Research from the World Health Organisation in 2016 highlighted the impact of environmental hazards and risks on global health covering more than 100 diseases and injuries. The analysis shows that 23% of global deaths (and 26% of deaths among children under five) are due to modifiable environmental factors.

Whilst air quality in Ireland is good relative to other European Union (EU) Member States, maintaining these standards is of increasing concern. Despite our monitored air quality being within EU limit values, the levels of particulate matter is an increasing challenge, particularly during winter months when domestic solid fuel burning can directly affect air quality and our health. In larger urban areas we face potential breaches of nitrogen dioxide limit values unless we reduce our dependence on private motor car travel.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 400,000 premature deaths are attributable to poor air quality in Europe annually. In Ireland, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution is estimated at 1,200 people and is mainly due to cardiovascular disease. The WHO has therefore described air pollution as the ‘single biggest environmental health risk’.

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