Levels of a potentially lethal air pollutant have exceeded safe limits in Derry in five of the last ten years, new government research reveals.
The Northern Ireland Environmental statistics report show that Derry has the most dangerous levels of low level ozone in the North.
Under the UK wide National Air Quality Strategy, levels of ozone - which is measured locally at Brooke Park - should not exceed an eight hour mean of 100mg per cubic metre more than ten times per year.
But the report further states that this “ objective has been exceeded in Derry in five of the last ten years.”
A spokeswoman for Stormont’s Department of the Environment, who published the report, says unsafe levels of ground level ozone, which is a byproduct of other pollutants reacting with each other, has serious health implications.
“Exposure to high concentrations may cause irritation to eyes and nose. Very high levels can damage airways leading to inflammatory reactions.
“Ozone reduces lung function and increases incidence of respiratory symptoms, respiratory hospital admissions and mortality.”
The spokeswoman says ozone is caused where nitrogen oxides, a pollutant released in car exhaust fumes and already known to exceed safe levels in Derry, react with other compounds in the air.
She says people can help combat air pollution by cutting vehicle usage, and by improving home insulation and through the use of high efficiency heating boilers.
The DOE spokeswoman says future government policy will be shaped upcoming European led initiatives including the Gothenburg Protocol to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE).
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