Improved Air Quality Alert system announced to help protect public health in Northern Ireland

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Environment Minister Edwin Poots has announced changes to his Department’s High Air Pollution Alert Protocol to improve how the public are informed when periods of high air pollution are forecast or being experienced in Northern Ireland.

Officials from DAERA and Department of Health (DoH) have worked in collaboration to update the system to make better use of social media platforms to disseminate information about high levels of air pollution to the public, health professionals and those in high risk groups.

The use of social media is in addition to DAERA’s existing SMS alert service, Air Quality NI website and Mobile App.

Minister Poots commented on the announcement: “With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our daily lives it is more important than ever to ensure that the public are alerted as soon as possible to forecast or actual High Air Pollution events.

“The revised protocol utilises social media as a form of getting this information out to the public at a greater pace and informing a larger proportion of the population.

“Interest in the quality of the air we breathe has grown massively over recent years, and the improvement of this alert system allows people with underlying health issues such as heart and lung conditions, or asthma to get more localised information when they need it.”

According to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), air pollution is estimated to cause up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.

A report published by Public Health England in 2014 estimated that in 2010, 553 deaths in over-25s in Northern Ireland were attributable to exposure to anthropogenic air pollution.

The Northern Ireland Air App can be downloaded free of charge via the Air Quality Northern website and from both android and iPhone App stores by searching ‘Northern Ireland Air’.

More information on air pollution and health is available on the UK Government website.