Minister announces improved Air Quality Alert system to help protect public health

Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced changes to his Department’s High Air Pollution Alert Protocol in order to improve how the public are informed when periods of high air pollution are forecast or being experienced in Northern Ireland.

By Edwin Poots MLA

Lagan Valley

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Officials from DAERA and Department of Health (DoH) have worked in collaboration to update the system to make better use of social media platforms to disseminate information about high levels of air pollution to the public, health professionals and those in high risk groups. The use of social media is in addition to DAERA’s existing SMS alert service, Air Quality NI website and Mobile App.

Welcoming the improvements to the alert protocol, Minister Poots said: “With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our daily lives it is more important than ever to ensure that the public are alerted as soon as possible to forecast or actual High Air Pollution events. The revised protocol utilises social media as a form of getting this information out to the public at a greater pace and informing a larger proportion of the population.

“Interest in the quality of the air we breathe has grown massively over recent years, and the improvement of this alert system allows people with underlying health issues such as heart and lung conditions, or asthma to get more localised information when they need it.”

Health Minister Robin Swann also supported this work and has encouraged the public to sign up to receive the alerts by downloading the NI Air app.

Minister Swann explained: “If you suffer from, or care for anyone with health conditions that may be exacerbated by high air pollution events I would urge you download the ‘Northern Ireland Air’ Mobile App, which offers a push notification service that sends a notification to the user’s mobile phone when levels of elevated pollutants are detected or the air quality forecast has identified elevated levels of pollutants. Alternatively, you can sign up to the ‘Air Aware’ SMS-alert service."

Minister Poots concluded: “Northern Ireland tends to experience seasonal fluctuations in certain types of air pollutants due to behavioral changes as a result of colder weather. Therefore, as we approach autumn/winter, I would ask everyone to consider their actions when it comes to heating their homes using the most efficient methods available. I would encourage everyone to visit the Northern Ireland Air website for more information on what we can all do to reduce air pollution.”

The Northern Ireland Air App can be downloaded free of charge via the Air Quality Northern website at www.airqualityni.co.uk and from both android and iPhone App stores by searching ‘Northern Ireland Air’.

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