Press Releases

2002 Releases

Ban On Coal Burning in Dublin Cleans the Air and Reduces Death Rates

For immediate release:  October 17, 2002

Boston, MA--Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Trinity College and the Dublin Institute of Technology in Dublin, Ireland, examined the effect of a 1990 ban on coal sales and coal burning in Dublin on death rates in the city for six years before and after the ban was implemented. The study found that black smoke concentrations and non-trauma death rates were substantially reduced. The findings appear in the October 19, 2002 issue of The Lancet.

As a result of the coal ban, the researchers found that the average black smoke concentrations in Dublin declined by 70 percent when compared to the six years before and after the ban. The reduction in black smoke was also associated with a nearly six percent reduction in non-trauma related death. Further, death from respiratory causes decreased by 15.5 percent and for cardiovascular causes the rate decreased by 10.3 percent. This translates to an estimated 116 fewer respiratory deaths and 243 fewer cardiovascular deaths per year in Dublin after the ban.

In the 1980s, Dublin's air quality suffered as people switched from oil to cheaper and more available coal for home and water heating. On September 1, 1990 the Irish Government banned the sale and distribution of bituminous coals within the city of Dublin. This offered the researchers a unique opportunity to assess the effects of particulate pollution on mortality and the general population. Douglas Dockery, study co-author and professor of environmental epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health said about the study findings, "The results could not be more clear, reducing particulate air pollution reduces the number of respiratory and cardiovascular related deaths immediately."

The study was supported in part by funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the RCD Hospital Trust, Glaxo Research, Enterprise Ireland, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu