Air pollution is killing more people than smoking, according to the World Health Organisation.
High volume of traffic on Irish roads paired with the spread of polluted European air masses is creating a “major environmental health issue” in Ireland with air contamination rapidly on the increase, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned.
Traditionally a problem for the countries of South East Asia, recent reports have shown that Ireland in general and Dublin, in particular, have seen pollution safety levels across the country breached a number of times already this year.
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is currently in the process of developing the State’s first National Clean Air Strategy, which aims to provide a framework on how to reduce harmful emissions and improve air quality and public health.
“We know that air pollution is causing 950 premature deaths per year in Ireland," Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe said in a press release.
"The limited monitoring is concentrated in affluent areas. Dublin is at risk during ‘temperature inversion’ weather. We need to ramp up our monitoring (like London) and take action to reduce air pollution."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution was responsible for seven million premature deaths worldwide. Over 600,000 of these were children under five years old.
Statistics like these are the reason that this year's World Environment Day is themed around raising awareness in an attempt to tackle the global threat of air pollution.
Toxic chemicals in the air, including particle matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), are produced by transport, agriculture, power generation, burning fuel for cooking as well as other industrial sources and cause an array of life-threatening medical conditions.
The chemicals penetrate the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections like pneumonia.
The challenge involves posting photos wearing self-made pollution masks, tagging three people you would like to challenge to do the same, along with the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay and #BeatAirPollution.
The campaign also encourages people to pledge to action a change that will help beat air pollution in your area, whether that be walking instead of driving or switching to a smart electricity meter.
For more information, check out @unenvironment's Instagram page here.
Main image by @bellahadid