Chair of the ICGP sustainability working group Dr Sean Owens has welcomed Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan’s recent announcement that strict standards regarding the sale of coal, coal-based products and any manufactured solid fuel or peat briquettes will come into effect in 2022.
Dr Owens said: “The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems with the smallest particles, those with diameters 2.5 micrometres and smaller (PM2.5), posing the greatest problems because they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the bloodstream of our patients.”
He added: “These regulations are an important first step in reducing the 1,300 premature deaths linked to PM2.5 air pollution in our patients annually.”
The ICGP sustainability working group was formed in 2020 by Dr Owens and his colleagues Dr John Allman and Dr Andrée Rochfort, to raise awareness among general practitioners of the need to consider the environment and the future sustainability of healthcare delivery to patients today.
The group sent a detailed submission to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications earlier this year. It reviewed the scientific evidence on air pollution, in particular exposure to very small inhalable particles, and concluded that it puts patients at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The former Chair of the ICGP, Dr John Cox, is the sustainability working group’s representative on the Climate Health Alliance, a coalition of healthcare stakeholders who work together to address the threat to human health from climate change and ecological degradation.
The full members of the College’s sustainability working group are: Dr Sean Owens, Dr Andrée Rochfort, Dr John Cox, Dr John Allman, Dr Louise Halpenny and Dr Aoife Benton.