Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Concentrations 2009 - 2018
Courtesy EPA ©

PAHs come from the domestic combustion of solid fuels such as coal, wood and peat. They can also be emitted from incomplete combustion of fuel in vehicles. Waste burning, bonfires and cigarette smoke are sources of PAH pollution also. 

Exposure to high concentrations of PAHs can cause eye nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and eye irritation, though high concentrations are unlikely in ambient air. However, long-term exposure to low levels of PAHs can result in cataracts, kidney and liver damage and jaundice. PAHs can also be carcinogenic and cause lung cancer. 

PAH present show no perceptible trends between 2009- 2018 .Concentrations at certain sites in Ireland that had persistent problems with levels coming close to EU annual limits had significantly decreased, but are again on an upward trend.

The EPA's latest Air Quality Report showed that, in 2019, PAH levels in ambient air resulting from solid fuel combustion is a large problem for our towns and villages, with levels above the European Environment Agency reference level at 4 monitoring sites. 

To reduce PAH levels it is essential that we move towards the use of cleaner fuels, and more efficient uses of these fuels. In addition to this, the retrofitting of homes to be better insulated and more energy efficient will also reduce emissions of pollutants. 

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