Asthma Society calls for nationwide ban on smoky coal to benefit public health
Sufferers of respiratory conditions such as asthma at risk from dangerous pollutants. 359 lives saved every year in Dublin since smoky coal was banned in 1990 – more than 8,250 people in total.
470,000 people in Ireland have asthma
Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma worldwide
More than one person a week in Ireland dies from asthma
Cost to Exchequer is €533 million
The Asthma Society of Ireland is calling on the government to implement a nationwide ban on smoky coal which has a detrimental effect on people who suffer with asthma, a potentially fatal chronic respiratory condition which affects 470,000 people in Ireland.
Asthma sufferers are the largest chronic disease patient group in Ireland. To prevent further damage to this vulnerable cohort, the Asthma Society of Ireland is recommending to the government that smoky coal should be banned across the country for sale and purchase, in line with the regulations that exist in Dublin and other parts of the country, in order to safeguard public health across the country.
RTE’s Eco Eye programme, which aired recently, noted that half a million people die each year in Europe from the effects of air pollution. Indeed, since smoky coal was banned in Dublin in 1990, 359 lives have been saved each year – that’s more than 8,250 people who are alive today because of a brave decision taken 23 years ago.
A report published in 2002 by The Lancet  showed that poor air quality is directly related to increased risk of death from respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Authored by Prof Luke Clancy, the study examined the effect of the 1990 coal ban in Dublin on population death-rates in the six years before and after the ban was introduced. The ban on coal related to an estimated reduction of 116 respiratory deaths and 243 cardiovascular deaths every year (359 in total) after the ban was implemented.
Asthma affects approximately 10% of the population overall, meaning everyone in Ireland knows someone who has asthma. Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be managed and controlled.60% of asthma sufferers do not have their asthma under control, meaning they are at risk of having an asthma attack.
People who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma can be badly affected by exposure to harmful particles in the air which result from pollutants, including the burning of smoky coal. These harmful particles can trigger and exacerbate conditions such as asthma, particularly during winter time.
Asthma currently represents a significant burden on the health service:
* 20,000 people attend Emergency Departments due to asthma each year
* 5,000 people are admitted to hospital with an average stay of 3 days
* 50,000 people require emergency nebulisation each year
62 people died from asthma in 2011. Tragically, a large number of these deaths were preventable; asthma is a controllable disease with the right treatment and management. The Joint Oireachtas Committee will hear that figures for the first two quarters of 2012 are similarly high, and worryingly the figures are particularly high for the 4-15 age group.
These high levels of Emergency Department admissions, hospital bed days, and nebulisations are unnecessary. The existing practice of allowing asthma symptoms to progress until they require nebulisation or hospital treatment, rather than taking preventative measures in primary care, not only puts patients at risk but wastes much needed hospital resources.
In addition, adults who suffer from asthma miss an average of 12 work days each year, while children miss an average of 10 school days each year. Asthma also has a severe impact on quality of life for the 470,000 Irish sufferers.
At the meeting, the Asthma Society will call for the implementation of the National Asthma Programme. Phased implementation of the programe beginning in 2014 would mean:
Reduction in preventable deaths from asthma
Equal access to quality asthma care for all
Reduced burden on overstretched hospital services
Cost savings for the state
For further information, please contact the Asthma Society Team on 01 817 8886
 Effect of air-pollution control on death rates in Dublin, Ireland: an intervention study: Prof Luke Clancy MD,Pat Goodman PhD,Hamish Sinclair PhD,Prof Douglas W Dockery ScD; The Lancet – 19 October 2002 ( Vol. 360, Issue 9341, Pages 1210-1214 )