In 1995, the ban on the sale and distribution of bituminous coal was introduced in Cork City and its direct environs. In 2012, the ban was extended geographically to include Blarney, Glanmire, Ovens, Killumney, Carrigaline, Monkstown, Passage, Glounthaune, Little Island, Ringaskiddy, and other areas.
The terms of the ban were also extended, making it an offence to burn bituminous coal in the ban area.
The current legislation governing the ban on bituminous coal is the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2016.
The burning of bituminous coal releases particulate matter into the atmosphere. The most harmful of these, PM2.5 particles, have been proven to have a significant detrimental effect on human health.
This can become quite concentrated in large urban areas, dependant on weather conditions and local topography.
The elderly, the very young and other vulnerable groups are particularly at risk. PM2.5 can hamper the recovery from illness of anyone with cardiac or respiratory problems, and can cause early deaths.
Several European and American studies have established that the health of the general public in built up areas is compromised by the burning of bituminous coal.
Several other studies have studied the link between the burning of bituminous coal in private houses and the internal environment of the home. It has been found that the threats to the occupants of the house can include heart attack, stroke, cancer, brain tumours, asthma, bronchitis, bronchiolitis (affects 1 in every 4 children under the age of 2) and many other cardiac and respiratory conditions, as well as birth defects.
The Regulations are enforced by Cork City and County Councils. Inspections are carried out on retailers, coal merchants and coal delivery trucks. Inspections are also carried out “out of hours” when coal deliveries are most frequent.
Maximum fines for marketing and sale of smokey coal have been increased to €5,000 on summary conviction, with on-the-spot fines of €1,000.
Council staff will also call to private houses where it appears that bituminous coal is being burned within the low smoke zone.
You can report any suspected cases of burning or distribution of smokey coal by phone at 021-4924000.