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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 26 January, 2020

National asthma programme will 'save lives'

The call comes on World Asthma Day, as an alliance is also formed to fight for better air quality in Ireland.

File photo dated 26/09/08 of a man using an inhaler
File photo dated 26/09/08 of a man using an inhaler
Image: Clive Gee/PA Wire/Press Association Images

AS WORLD ASTHMA Day is celebrated today, an alliance of medical and environmental experts has been formed that is calling for better air quality in Ireland.

There are also calls for a National Asthma Programme to help save lives and benefit the half a million asthma sufferers in Ireland.


The INHALE (Ireland Needs Healthier Air and Lower Emissions) Alliance has welcomed the announcement from Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, that he sees a ban on smoky coal being implemented within the next three years.

Ireland has the fourth-highest prevalence of asthma worldwide, and more than one person dies from asthma every week in this country. The economic burden of asthma is estimated at €533 million per year.

Formed by the Asthma Society of Ireland, the INHALE Alliance came together in recent weeks, having separately advocated for cleaner air across Ireland.

Its members are  Dr Basil Elnazir, Chairperson of the Asthma Society of Ireland’s Medical Board and Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician at the Adelaide and Meath, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital; Prof Stephen Lane, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Asthma Society of Ireland Medical Board member; Prof Luke Clancy, Consultant Respiratory Physician and director general of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society; Prof Pat Goodman, DIT School of Physics and Asthma Society of Ireland Scientific and Research Committee Member; James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce and Duncan Stewart, broadcaster and environmental campaigner.

People who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma can be badly affected by exposure to harmful particles in the air which result from pollutants, including the burning of smoky coal.

In forming the INHALE Alliance, the Asthma Society of Ireland is also calling for expedited implementation of the National Asthma Programme.

It says phased implementation of the programme and enrolment of patients beginning in 2014 would mean:

  • Reduction in preventable deaths from asthma
  • Equal access to quality asthma care for all
  • Reduced burden on overstretched hospital services
  • Cost savings for the state

Smokey coal ban

Sharon Cosgrove, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, told that the first ban on smokey coal came in 23 years ago in Dublin, and has since been expanded to include a number of other areas.

She said that it is “a little bit piecemeal”, however, as “you could be living in one town where there is a ban, but five miles down the road there is no ban”. The society is calling for nationwide ban on smoky coal for people with asthma, and said it welcomed Minister Hogan’s comments that he envisions that taking place within a few years.

There are 470,000 people in Ireland with asthma – one in five children and one in ten adults. Cosgrave said she can understand the need to take time to implement things, “but we still want it done as quickly as possible”.

A survey completed by the society in March showed that there was a lack of knowledge around asthma, with over a third of people surveyed not realising that the burning of smokey coal has an impact on people with the condition.

There are free asthma clinics taking place this week – to find out more, visit There are also extended hours for the asthma advice line, which is on 1850445464 and open from 6 – 10 May from 10am to 8pm; 13 – 17 May from 10am to 4pm, and 20 – 24 May from 10am to 4pm.

Read: 50 asthma deaths a year ‘is too high’>

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