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3.3 HEALTH SCIENCES, Public and environmental health


During the 1980s Ireland experienced severe pollution episodes, principally because of domestic coal burning. In 1990, the Irish government introduced a ban on the marketing, sale, and distribution of coal in Dublin. They extended the ban to Cork in 1995 and to ten other communities in 1998 and 2000. We previously reported declines in particulate (black smoke [BS]) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations in Dublin following the 1990 coal ban. We now explore and compare the effectiveness of these sequential bans in 1990, 1995, 1998, and 2000. Daily BS and total gaseous acidity (SO2) measurements were compiled between 1980 and 2004. We calculated descriptive statistics for the pre-ban (5 yr before ban) and post-ban (5 yr after ban) periods for BS and SO2 concentrations and for season-specific periods. Mean BS levels fell in all centers post-ban compared with the pre-ban period, with decreases ranging from 4 to 35 μg∙m-3 (-45 to -70%). These reductions were smallest in the summer and largest in the winter. These BS reductions were sustained in all centers until the end of the study period. We observed no clear pattern in SO2 changes associated with the coal bans. The 1990, 1995, 1998, and 2000 Irish coal sale bans resulted in immediate and sustained decreases in particulate levels in centers, with the largest declines in the winter. In contrast, we did not observe consistent declines in total acidity as a measure of SO2. It may be that coal was not the major source of SO2. Simple legislation was very effective at improving ambient air quality in Irish cities with varying populations, geography/topography, and meteorological conditions.