Medical and scientific bodies warn Government turf-selling ban can not be delayed

Senior medical and scientific bodies have warned the Government it must press ahead with the proposed turf-selling ban, insisting the decision “simply cannot be delayed”.

The intervention by the Climate and Health Alliance, which includes members of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, UCC School of Public Health, and the National Children’s Hospital Ireland, will put further pressure on the Government to act.

A ban on the commercial sale of turf must happen on public health and environmental grounds, the alliance said, pointing to the 1,400 lives needlessly lost in Ireland every year due to air pollution.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said her party does not support the ban. She told Newstalk Breakfast it is “the wrong move at this time… In many homes, the only way that people are going to heat their homes is by burning peat”.

It marks a fresh challenge for the Government on the issue this week, following claims and counterclaims by party leaders and TDs who have spoken in favor of and against the ban.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting that a firm decision on such a ban in September would be paused, a claim subsequently denied by Environment Minister Eamon Ryan who insisted that no such pause had been agreed.

Political fallout

Such was the fallout that Taoiseach Micheál Martin has felt compelled to insist the issue is not likely to damage or bring down the Government.

Mr Martin said the coalition leaders will “continue discussions” on the break.

Climate Change Advisory Council member Cara Augustenborg criticized the Tanaiste’s intervention on the issue.

“I find it very, very strange now that suddenly the Tánaiste – a medical doctor, I might add, who knows the health impacts of these kinds of fuels – would delay this issue for even one more day and not let other people in Ireland outside Dublin avail of this and protect their health, ”said Prof Augustenborg.

Climate and Health Alliance spokesman, geriatrician Colm Byrne, a leading authority on the link between air quality and stroke, said the burning of smoky fuels, including turf, coal, and wet wood, at home is responsible for the majority of the 1,400 deaths.

“The health impact of domestic fuel burning is devastating. It is the main source of microscopic pollutants known as PM2.5 responsible for an estimated 92% of air pollution deaths in Ireland,” said Dr Byrne.

” We simply can not delay the ban on the commercial sale of turf and must introduce the forthcoming solid fuel regulations in full as planned this September.

“Home fuel burning has a hugely detrimental impact on the nation’s health, with children, older people, and those living with chronic diseases the worst affected.”

PM2.5, or particulate matter, is all solid and liquid particles suspended in air, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.

The fact is that when you sit in front of an open fire, you are exposed to similar levels of toxic fumes found in traffic blackspots at rush hour.

“The pollutant PM2.5 can trigger asthma, skin and autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as causing infertility, miscarriage, sight loss, and dementia,” said Dr. Byrne.

Opponents of the proposed turf ban claim it is unconscionable at a time when utility bills are soaring, and that the most vulnerable would be the biggest casualties.

The Climate and Health Alliance said that the ban on turf must coincide with a serious ramping up of retrofitting.

“Crucially, while we fully support proposed restrictions for sound health reasons, we cannot be blind to the potential for fuel poverty for some people, so it is essential that new regulations are accompanied by measures ensuring that nobody is left without an affordable means of heating. their home safely.

“This will necessitate an accelerated national retrofitting program focusing first on people at risk of fuel poverty and increases in the fuel allowance to ensure that nobody on low income is out of pocket due to the legislation.”

Among the alliance’s other members are Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Irish Heart Foundation, and the Irish Cancer Society.

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