A new report has shown a monitor in the Brandywell recorded the highest mean values of benzo[a]pyrene - a carcinogen caused by car exhausts and fossil fuels - in the North and Britain in 2016.
The station was one of only three on the UK monitoring network for ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’ that breached EU targets, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
16th annual report on air quality has revealed.
“Three sites in Northern Ireland, Derry Brandywell, Ballymena Ballykeel and Kilmakee Leisure Centre, monitor benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P),” the report stated.
“The UK PAH monitoring network 2016 report revealed that three Northern Ireland monitoring sites recorded the first, sixth and eighth highest annual mean values of B[a]P in the UK.
“In 2016 the Derry Brandywell site was one of three UK sites at which the EU annual mean target value for B[a]P (1 nanogram per cubic metre - 1ng/m3 was breached, with the report noting that levels found in both Ballykeel and Brandywell were associated with domestic solid fuel use.
“By 2017 this figure had returned to its 2015 value.”
The report explained that PAHs, of which benzo[a]pyrene is a key marker substance, are compounds that can be formed as by-products of various combustion processes.
“They are known to be potent human carcinogens (able to cause cancer) and are one of the cancer-causing constituents of cigarette smoke,” the report stated.
“They are emitted in highest levels from inefficient burning of ‘dirty’ solid fossil fuels - for example, bituminous coal or peat in open fires,” it added.
In 2004 the EU introduced the target values under its directive 2004/107/EC in order to protect human health.
Under the terms of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 the UK has committed to maintaining these targets if and when it leaves the EU.