Cork Low Smoke Zone
In 1995, the ban on the sale and distribution of bituminous coal was introduced in Cork City and its direct environs.
In 2012, the ban was extended geographically to include Blarney, Glanmire, Ovens, Killumney, Carrigaline, Monkstown, Passage, Glounthaune, Little Island, Ringaskiddy, and other areas. The terms of the ban were also extended, making it an offence to burn bituminous coal in the Cork Low Smoke Zone. The current legislation governing the ban on bituminous coal is the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012-2016 (S.I. No. 326 of 2012).
A map of the current Cork Low Smoke Zone is available here.
Why a ban on bituminous coal?
The burning of bituminous coal releases particulate matter into the atmosphere. The most harmful of these, PM2.5 particles, have been proven to have a significant detrimental effect on human health. This can become quite concentrated in large urban areas, dependent on weather conditions and local topography.
The elderly, the very young and other vulnerable groups are particularly at risk. PM2.5 can hamper the recovery from illness of anyone with cardiac or respiratory problems, and can cause early deaths.
Several European and American studies have established that the health of the general public in built up areas is compromised by the burning of bituminous coal. Several other studies have studied the link between the burning of bituminous coal in private houses and the internal environment of the home, and have found that the threats to the occupants of the house can include heart attack, stroke, cancer, brain tumours, asthma, bronchitis, bronchiolitis (affects 1 in every 4 children under the age of 2) and many other cardiac and respiratory conditions, as well as birth defects.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate that each year there are 1500 early deaths in Ireland due to air pollution. The burning of bituminous coal and other smoky solid fuels is acknowledged to be the biggest threat to good air quality in Ireland and the burning of low smoke alternatives has been found to have significant public health benefits.
Enforcement of the Regulations
The Regulations are enforced by Cork City and County Councils. Inspections are carried out on retailers, coal merchants and coal delivery trucks. Inspections are also carried out “out of hours” when coal deliveries are most frequent. Maximum fines for marketing and sale of smoky coal have been increased to €5,000 on summary conviction, with on-the-spot fines of up to €1,000.
Council staff will also call to private houses where it appears that bituminous coal is being burned within the smokeless zone.