The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel (or 'smoky coal ban') was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 in response to severe episodes of winter smog that resulted from the widespread use of smoky coal for residential heating. The ban proved effective in reducing smoke and sulphur dioxide levels and was subsequently extended to other areas. The ban now applies in twenty six cities and towns. Air quality monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown lower levels of particulate matter (PM10) in these areas than in towns where the ban does not apply.
A ban on the burning of smoky coal and other prohibited fuels now applies in all smoky coal ban Low Smoke Zones (LSZs) to complement the ban on the marketing, sale and distribution.
Research indicated that the ban in Dublin resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths. An estimate of these benefits in monetary terms put the value at over € 20m. Additional benefits of the regulations have also been identified through the stimulation of householders to switch from using solid fuels, which generally are less efficient and more polluting, to more efficient and less polluting gas or oil. The associated reduced fuel costs to consumers were estimated at €184m per year.
Where householders continue to rely on solid fuel, there is now a range of innovative low smoke solid fuel products, including low smoke coal products, available on the market. Low smoke solid fuel is cleaner as well as more carbon and heat-efficient and, so can deliver climate benefits as well as improved air quality and human health benefits.
Under the Regulations all low smoke solid fuel products must be clearly labelled as per the Regulations. This allows householders to make an informed choice concerning the products they purchase.