Tag Archives: Pollution

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 30th June 2016

Noonan says Brexit will not affect Budget as Irish shares rise

UK referendum may delay EU ruling on Apple’s Irish tax affairs, Minister now says?


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform

The Brexit vote will not affect Budget 2017 but its longer term effect on Ireland could be serious depending on what deal the UK agrees with the EU, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said.

The tax streams for 2017 are relatively fixed at this stage and contingencies for the initial impact of the Brexit result have already been worked out, Mr Noonan said. Beyond that it will depend on what sort of new arrangement the UK agrees with the EU.

If the UK remains in the single market “then the impact [on Ireland] will be quite low,” Mr Noonan told the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and An Taoiseach on Thursday. But if a more distant relationship emerges involving tariffs and border posts, “the impact would be bigger… it would be serious.”

Irish shares rise.

The Minister’s comments came as Irish and other European shares rose for a third straight session as they continued to claw back some of the ground lost in the immediate aftermath of the UK referendum. The Iseq added 1%, while the FTSE 100 gained 2.3% in London. Meanwhile, the market interest rate, or yield, on the Government’s 10-year bonds fell to a record low of 0.509% as investors continued to speculate that the European Central Bank will add stimulus to limit the fallout from Brexit.

Mr Noonan said post-Brexit market movements have been bad for the UK in terms of exchange rates and stock exchange values, with the international expectation being that the UK will become a weaker economy. He said the UK quitting the EU presents potential economic and foreign direct investment (FDI) advantages for Ireland, though if the British government feels it is losing out “they’ll probably adjust policy to forestall that.”

Meanwhile, Mr Noonan said the UK vote may delay the EU’s decision on whether iPhone-maker Apple’s tax dealings in this country breached state-aid rules. While he said it had been rumoured that the EU would deliver its final ruling on its case against Ireland in July, the possibility of an adverse finding and large tax bill for “an American company operating in Europe” next month is now less likely, following the the referendum.

Enda Kenny

Also speaking to the committee, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that the best thing for Ireland would be if the UK retains access to the single market. But he added that for this to happen the country must accept the key principles of the EU, including the free movement of people.

He said the new British prime minister, due to be in place by September 9th, will be given a short period of time to work out their strategy before they will be expected to initiate formal exit negotiations.

The process should last about two years, after which a short extension may be granted. However, if the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement, then World Trade Organisation rules will come into effect. Mr Kenny said he hoped this didn’t happen.

Mr Kenny also said he has made the EU aware that Ireland’s interest are in maintaining the common travel area between Ireland and the UK, protecting the peace process, maintaining the open border between the Republic and the North and maintaining trade links between Ireland and the UK.

Ireland’s Seanad to invite Nicola Sturgeon to address it on Brexit

Great affinity between Ireland and Scotland, says Fine Gael Senator Paddy Burke


Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a speech during a media conference at the Scotland House in Brussels.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is to be invited to address the Seanad on the UK’s exit from the EU before it adjourns for the summer recess later this month.

The proposal was made by Fine Gael Senator Paddy Burke, who said there was a great affinity between parts of Ireland and Scotland, with both having a lot in common.

“We heard a lot recently about countries that want to leave the EU, but Scotland wants to stay in it,’’ he added.

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said she agreed with the proposal.

Scottish independence

“People seem to be fighting the cause for Scottish independence and its right to have a say over its own destiny, but they need to show the same consideration and fight with the same vehemence for our comrades in the North,’’ she added.

“It cannot be done for one without the other.’’

She said she admired and respected Ms Sturgeon and would be very happy to hear from her in the House.

Later, during a debate on delivering sustainable full employment, Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond said a week from the referendum some people had expressed frustration that Brexit was still being discussed.

Extremely important

While he was sorry to disappoint them, the referendum result was extremely important in the context of delivering sustainable full employment.

Mr Richmond said it was important to emphasise Ireland would continue to be an EU member, with full access to the single market and retaining all of the advantages for inward investment.

A report produced in May suggested Brexit could push about €6 billion of investment into Ireland’s financial services sector, he said.

A bank already moving some operations to Ireland was Switzerland’s Credit Suisse, which had said in December it would make Dublin its primary hub for servicing hedge funds in Europe and move staff from London to here, said Mr Richmond.

“A report from Bloomberg earlier this week compared Dublin with Paris, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and even Edinburgh as possible destinations for financial institutions now looking to relocate from London in a post-Brexit world,’’ he added.

“A glowing recommendation brought just two negative concerns to light: a relative lack of office space and high personal tax rates.’’

Low pay scandal

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan said there was a scandal of low pay in Ireland, particularly in the hospitality industry.

“It is an industry that for some time has enjoyed a generous tax break in terms of a reduced VAT rate of nine per cent, costing taxpayers €650 million a year,’’ he added.

“We know that the hotel industry is booming, with record levels of room occupancy, but that stands in stark contrast to the terms and conditions of workers in that sector.’’

Just 7% of parents think their kids may be overweight?

Reality is that 1 in 4 is overweight or obese

Image result for Just 7% of parents think their kids may be overweight?    

Less than half of Irish parents know what weight their children are, while just 7% feel that their children may be overweight, new data has shown.

According to the latest Pfizer Health Index, just 47% of parents know what weight their children are and the vast majority do not think they are overweight, despite the fact that currently, one in four children in Ireland is overweight or obese.

When asked if their children were undertaking 60 minutes of physical activity per day – the recommended daily amount – just 20% of parents said that their children were achieving this. The average was 60 minutes per day four times a week.

“One in four of our children is currently overweight or obese, yet because the norm has changed we are not recognising this reality. Children’s social, emotional and physical health is being harmed. We as a society must partner with industry and the Government to turn the tide on childhood obesity in Ireland as a matter of priority,” commented Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan of Safefood.

Parents were also asked about the use of screens in their home. The average length of time children spend looking at various screens each day is two hours and 16 minutes according to these findings.

Some 15% of children bring a screen, such as a smartphone or tablet, to bed with them, and 24% of parents have no rule in relation to screens in bed.

“Modern technology is undoubtedly impacting on the health of our family unit and we can see that children are more sedentary than before. There has been exponential growth in the use of screens particularly with mobiles and tablets and in Ireland we currently have more mobile phones than we do people.

“While technology is a powerful tool, it is important that parents aim to be in charge of the use of that technology, rather than technology being in charge of you,” said family psychotherapist, Dr John Sharry.

The health index also looked at family health in general. It asked parents to rank health priorities for their children. The biggest priority for parents was that their children reached their developmental milestones (31%). The second most important priority was that their children would have access to GP care (29%).

Other areas that were seen as priorities by parents included the social development of their child, including developing friendships, educational performance and having their children vaccinated.

This is the 11th annual Pfizer Health Index to be carried out. This year’s index was based on a survey of over 1,200 people aged 16 and older. It was undertaken by Behaviour & Attitudes in April.

Marijuana shown to protect brain cells from Alzheimer’s


A new study suggests that compounds found in marijuana can stave off the brain damaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a promising discovery, but claims that pot can prevent this age-related brain disorder are premature. Put the pipe away, man.

Researchers from the Salk Institute have shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can contribute to the removal of toxic proteins, known as amyloid beta, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. This research offers new insight into the role that inflammation plays in this neurological disorder, which could point the way to new drugs.

But this research should be taken with a grain of salt. The protective effects of marijuana were observed in neurons grown in the lab, so it’s not immediately clear if the same process is applicable to living human beings. What’s more, this study doesn’t speak to the potential negative effects of marijuana on the aging brain. It’s far too early to be making claims about pot being some kind of miracle cure for Alzheimer’s, or even as something that can be used as a protective measure. Only time—and further research—will truly tell.

Previous research has shown that compounds in marijuana, called cannabinoids, protect the brain from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This new study is unique in that it’s “the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” as the study’s lead author David Schubert put it in a statement.

Scientists are fairly certain that these toxins contribute to the growth of damaging plaque deposits in the brain, but they’re not entirely sure about the precise role that’s played by amyloid beta in the process. To learn more, Schubert’s team studied nerve cells that were modified to produce high levels of amyloid beta. Left untreated, these cells were subject to inflammation and higher rates of death. But when the researchers exposed these cells to cannabinoids, the levels of the amyloid beta proteins were reduced. The inflammation disappeared, and the neurons were able to survive. The compounds found within marijuana appeared to be protecting the cells from dying.

As noted, this research was conducted on neurons in a petri dish, so it’s not clear if an actual brain would respond to cannabinoids in the same way. Scientists will need to perform clinical trials to find out.

They’re also going to have to consider the potential tradeoffs of using marijuana as a drug to stave of neurodegeneration. Previous studies have shown that pot can screw around with our memories—which is clearly a bad thing in a disease that already ravages memories. Recent research also shows that marijuana alters the brain reward system, and that that long-term use makes it more difficult to recall memories during middle age.

Pot may very well help with Alzheimer’s, but we’re clearly going to have to be mindful of its negative effects as well.

Pollution has been causing springtime to come early


Artificial lighting has been causing springtime to come early, with trees bursting into leaf a week earlier in areas with more light pollution, scientists have found.

Researchers at the University of Exeter compared the amount of artificial night-time light across the country and the date at which new leaves first appeared on trees such as sycamore, oak, ash and beech.

The research drew on “citizen science” data from the Woodland Trust, which asks members of the public to record the signs of the changing seasons, such as bud-burst, in its Nature’s Calendar scheme.

Comparing 13 years of data about when the buds were bursting with satellite images of artificial lighting, the researchers found the key sign of spring was occurring up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas, with the effect larger in later-budding trees.

Excluding large urban areas from the analysis showed the advance of spring was even more pronounced, the research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found.

This showed the early bud bursting was not simply down to the “heat-island” effect in which cities are slightly warmer than the surrounding areas.

The way the effect was seen across all areas also suggests it is not down to temperature rises, according to the study, which was a collaboration between the university and independent environmental consultants Spalding Associates, in Truro, Cornwall.

The scientists raised concerns that the impact of artificial night-time lighting – such as street lights – on trees would have a knock-on effect on other wildlife.

Winter moths, which feed on emerging oak leaves, could be affected, which in turn could have an impact on birds which feed on them.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust citizen science manager, said: “Analysis of Nature’s Calendar data suggests that increased urbanisation is continuing to put pressure on the natural world, in ways that we could not have foreseen.

“As the seasons become less and less predictable, our native wildlife may struggle to keep up with fluctuations that affect habitats and food sources.

“Hopefully this research will lead to new thinking on how to tackle such issues, and will help influence future development decisions.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 5th April 2016

Irish Water the elephant in the room of government talks

Healy-Rae says public has waited for 40 days for a government and was getting frustrated


Michael Healy Rae (left) and his brother Danny. Michael Healy Rae has said that Irish Water is the ‘elephant in the room’ during the government formation talks.

An Independent TD has said the issue of Irish Water is the “elephant in the room” in all the negotiations with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae said “our Lord spent 40 days in the desert” and said the Irish public had waited for a similar period for a government and that patience was now wearing thin.

Mr Healy-Rae said it was unhelpful that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have still not spoken to each other, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

On the same programme, Independent Alliance TD for Galway East Sean Canney, also called on the two largest parties to talk directly.

He said it would be wrong to spend another €40 million on a second election and said this money could be spent on tackling homelessness or employing more hospital consultants

Mr Canney said a lot of newly elected TDs, including those in Sinn Fein, had not engaged in the process of government formation and said there should be more focus on them. “What were they elected to do?”

Another Independent Alliance TD, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran says his group would make a collective decision on Wednesday on who they will back during a second vote in Dail on the election of a new Taoiseach.

The Longford Westmeath TD’s comments follow the suggestion that a number of non-party deputies may abstain from Wednesday’s vote.

A number of Independent TDs yesterday expressed anger about a tweet posted by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on Sunday, in which he said his posters were ready for a second election if necessary.

The Panama Papers simply explained even a 5-year old can understand


The Panama Papers leak has pretty much been big news around the world. The scandal however has not been the easiest to understand for many people. A Reddit user here tries to ‘Explain it in simple terms Like I’m 5’ (ELI5) type of post that has since gone viral.

ELI5 is exactly what it sounds like – how you would explain a certain thing to a five-year-old. So how do you explain secret banking, offshore accounts and tax evasion to a five-year-old?

Here’s how Dan Gliesack explained the Panama Papers leak to five-year-olds:
When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighbourhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighbourhood.
One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.
Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.

Irish Central Bank handed out severance payment of €32k to a person who did not work for it?

Another two exit packages worth €61k each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years


The Central Bank in Dublin (above left)

The state spending watchdog has criticised the Central Bank for handing out a severance payment worth €32,000 to an individual who had not even begun to work for it.

The bank suffered costs of €73,000 as a result of the case as it had to cover its own and the recruit’s legal fees.

Another two exit packages worth €61,000 each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General said the three payments “suggest that the Central Bank needs to review its procedures for managing recruitment and probation”.

It also noted that a long-term contractor who had never been an employee of the bank was awarded €60,000.

The report identified 14 expensive discretionary severance payments, amounting to nearly €1.5m, that were made by public sector bodies between 2011 and 2013.

The Central Bank made six of these payments, which amounted to over €540,000 including legal costs.

Between 2011 and 2013, the report said the bank had “more recourse” to termination agreements and severance payments than the other public sector bodies it examined.

“The frequency of payments could imply weaknesses in the Central Bank’s procedures for managing performance or addressing other human resource issues,” it said.

The bank clocked up its own legal costs and the costs of the employee in all but one case, but details of the legal advice it received were not documented in some cases.

The report noted that such severance payments are often made when the employment relationship breaks down “irreconcilably”.

It also says severance payments may be made to attract desirable candidates to short-term jobs.

An examination of formal severance payments awarded between 2011 and 2013 under six public sector schemes, found they had a value of €17.9m. It said nearly €11m of this was related to pension enhancements. like added years.

It found broad compliance with scheme rules in most cases, except for a scheme for chief executives of state bodies.

The report found two state bodies, who are not named, made severance payments in the form of pension enhancements worth over €1m without the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s prior approval.

According to the report, the governor of the Central Bank said the cases it was taken to task over arose in a period of unprecedented renewal and growth at the bank, as staff numbers grew by one third between 2009 and 2013.

A spokesman for the Comptroller and Auditor General said the Central Bank was the only public body named in the report, aside from the departments responsible for signing off on severance payments, because of the high number of discretionary payments it made.

Most Irish beaches meet water standards but six fail to make the cut


Bathers will have to think twice before taking the plunge at six of the country’s beaches after they failed basic water quality tests.

Among the six is Youghal in Co Cork, which continued its poor performance for a second year.

Untreated sewage in the water was the main culprit for the failures, with e. coli and other bacteria, making swimming and other water sports inadvisable and, in some cases, prohibited.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Irish Water are working to see what can be done to ensure that the beaches are given a clean bill of health before the summer season, but there are concerns they could remain no-go areas this year.

Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “The relevant local authorities, in conjunction with Irish Water, have management plans in place to tackle the main pollution risks at these beaches and these plans are designed to return these beaches to at least ‘sufficient’ quality in the next year or two.”

The EPA also warned, however, that in some cases significant investment in infrastructure will be needed to get standards up to acceptable levels.

Some of the beaches are repeat offenders — Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon, Co Wexford; and Ballyloughane, Galway City, failed for the second year in a row, while Rush, Co Dublin, failed for the third time in the last four years.

Newcomers to the bathing blacklist are Merrion Strand in Dublin Ccity and Loughshinny, which is close to Rush in north Co Dublin.

EPA inspectors who carry out the quality survey annually stressed the vast majority of the country’s most popular beaches and lakes were clean and clear of harmful pollutants.

Of the 137 inspected, 101 were rated as ‘excellent’ quality, as measured by EU standards, while a further 13 were classed as ‘good’ and 14 were ‘sufficient’.

Two that failed the previous year, Clifden, Co Galway, and Lilliput, Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath, improved enough to escape the blacklist this year, but further tests are awaited before they get a final rating.

The rest are rated as ‘poor’, which under EU regulations means they haven’t met the minimum standards required to give a green light for bathing and recreation.

Trá Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands was inspected for the first time last year and has not been tested enough to be ranked, but the EPA said sampling so far showed excellent results.

Failing the inspections does not automatically mean the beaches are off limits. Peter Webster, EPA senior scientist, said it meant there was “a risk of periodic microbiological pollution”.

“Local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing, which could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs,” said Mr Webster.

During the bathing season, June 1 to September 15, current water quality information and details of any restrictions on bathing are displayed on the national bathing water website, splash.epa.ie, as well as on local beach notice boards.

Bathing restrictions applied on 131 out of 14,659 ‘beach days’ last year, but most suspected pollution incidents resulted in precautionary, short-term restrictions and no evidence of pollution was subsequently discovered.

Bereaved people at greater risk of developing irregular heartbeat,

Growing body of research suggests stressful life events boost risk of heart attack or a stroke.


People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

The risk of an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, is greatest among the under-60s and when the loss of the partner was least expected, the findings indicate. Atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke and heart failure.

A growing body of evidence suggests that highly stressful life events boost the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but up to now it has not been clear whether this might also be true of atrial fibrillation.

The study, published in the online journal Open Heart, collected data on 88,612 people newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and 886,120 healthy people between 1995 and 2014.

The factors?

Danish researchers looked at factors that might influence atrial fibrillation risk. These included time since the bereavement; age and sex; underlying conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes; the health of the partner a month before death; and whether they were single.

Some 17,478 of those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation had lost their partner as had 168,940 of the comparison group.

Underlying illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and associated treatment for these conditions, were more common among those who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

But the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was 41 per cent higher among those who had been bereaved than it was among those who had not experienced such a loss, the findings indicated.

This heightened risk was apparent, irrespective of gender and other underlying conditions.

The risk seemed to be greatest eight to 14 days following a death, after which it gradually subsided until after a year the risk was similar to that of someone who had not been bereaved.

People under the age of 60 were more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation if they had been bereaved.

Those whose partners were relatively healthy in the month before death were 57 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. No such increased risk was seen among those whose partners were not healthy and who were expected to die soon.

As an observational study, the research does not permit firm conclusions to be drawn about cause and effect.

Researchers suggest acute stress may directly disrupt normal heart rhythms and prompt the production of chemicals involved in inflammation.

Further research looking at whether the association found applies to more common, but less severe life stressors, is warranted, they say.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to beaches than people?

Merrion Strand (below left) in Dublin is polluted with human sewage and bird droppings, An EPA report finds.

   BEACHES_0016_LKM.jpg Rose Feerick and David Strohm pass through hundreds of seagulls as they walk along Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay. The beach has some of the most polluted water in the state, which could partially be caused by large number of seagulls that gather there. (Laura Morton/Special to the Chronicle) *** Rose Feerick
 *** David Strohm Photo: Laura Morton   

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to the country’s beaches than people, according to the latest water quality report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The birds have been blamed as one of the reasons for the EPA’s decision to brand water quality at Merrion Strand in Dublin as poor, since they have taken to resting in large number on a sandbar.

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about 10 times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Six beaches, including Merrion, have been given “poor” grades, which means that local authorities will put up warnings to swimmers, but will not ban them from swimming there.

However, the EPA report found three-quarters of sites it inspected were “excellent” and 93.4 per cent met minimum EU standards – roughly in line with last year’s numbers.

Those classed as “poor” were Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon Co Waterford; Rush south beach. Co Dublin and Ballyloughane, Co Galway all of which were first classed as “poor” in 2014, as well as Merrion Strand and Loughshinny in Dublin which were classified as poor for the first time in 2015.

No inland bathing areas were classified as having poor water quality.

EPA senior scientific officer Peter Webster said problems at Merrion Strand in south Dublin were “complex, on-going and difficult to resolve”.

Two factors had been identified. First was the presence the Trimleston and Elm Park streams which were found to be polluted with sewage. Mr Webster said this could be a result of “poor housing connections” from anywhere as far as the M50.

The second issue was an offshore sandbar which had become home to populations of seagulls and wading birds. The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day, he said.

The EPA said where bathing waters were classified as poor, the advice was not to bathe. Where such a classification was made, local authorities must publicise the advice, or in more extreme cases close the beach.

In a statement on Monday evening Fingal County Council said it had agreed a management plan for Loughshinny Beach bathing water with the EPA, “who are satisfied that the measures set out in the plan will achieve an improvement in water quality”.

In relation to the other coastal areas, remediation measures are being put in place by agreement between the local authorities and the EPA.

Mr Webster said a complicating factor in the report was that data was compiled over a four year period, so the data applying to 2015 was collected between 2012 and 2015.

In the case of Loughsinny a once-off event in 2014 had caused a major pollution leak, but previous years had pulled the overall result up. Since 2015 was marginally worse than 2011, “the data tipped” into the poor classification this year, he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 29th. January 2016

Irish Labour party promises to slash taxes by a third if returned to power?


The Irish Labour has promised to reduce taxes for workers on €25,000 by as much as a third as part of a €3bn tax reform package if it is returned to power.

Workers on up to €50,000 would also see their taxes reduced by up to 15% under the promised reforms.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin unveiled the tax-cut promise yesterday evening in Mullingar, ahead of Labour’s conference here today.

The plan would put more than €1,000 a year back into the pocket of a worker on €25,000. However, a high earner on €120,000 or more would not see any reductions in their tax obligations.

As part of the pre-election promise, Labour says USC would be abolished on incomes up to €72,000. Workers would also pay less PRSI once their income amounts to less than €704 a week.

Any gains under the changes for higher earners would be clawed back by adjusting their tax.

Announcing the changes, Mr Howlin said the USC was the “most draconian of the charges” introduced during the recession. However, Labour still wanted to keep a broad tax base and would limit reductions.

For more election news, analysis and general banter join us HERE

Under the proposals, a worker on €25,000 would see joint reductions in USC and PRSI result in a €1,132 saving annually, or €22 per week.

A worker on €50,000 would see €2,043 saved a year or €39 per week . Someone on a salary of €72,000 makes a saving of €3,302 or €63 per week.

Labour stressed that higher earners would see gains clawed back.

Someone on €120,000 might see USC reductions of €3,302 but these would be cancelled out by income tax-related increases.

Mr Howlin also responded to calls for the next government to have a “rainy day” fund, saying that Labour had financial plans, though this was an unallocated amount, if Ireland faced future economic challenges.

The minister would not be drawn though on what exactly these funds were, or how much.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council yesterday warned that the projections for increased spending by the next government were incorrect, and were several billion euro short of what was being promised by parties wanting to be in government.

With just days to go before the expected announcement of the election, Labour TDs and delegates will today discuss jobs and healthcare, among other issues, before party leader Joan Burton gives the main address at the conference tonight.

Minister Lynch rows back on inquiry into a contentious HSE sexual abuse case

Circumstance involves woman allegedly abused in southeast care home


Kathleen Lynch: “The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas.”

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has pulled back from apparently conceding that a commission of inquiry should take place into how the HSE handled allegations of serious sexual abuse at a foster home in the southeast.

In a statement last night she said serious consideration must be given before any decision was made about establishing a commission of inquiry to look at all aspects of what happened.

The Minister with responsibility for social care said a definitive judgment on this should not be made in advance of seeing a report by barrister Conor Dignam who she formally appointed on December 7th to undertake a review of two reports already completed on the matter.

“The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas,” said Ms Lynch.

The Minister pointed out that, on first hearing of this matter in April 2014, her immediate concern was to ensure that no person was currently at risk. She received that assurance and was informed that no new admissions had been made to this private foster home since 1995, with the last resident being removed in 2009.

“The critical question of why this young vulnerable person was left in the foster home until 2009, even though the most serious concerns had been raised about her, remains the central issue.

“It is important to note that the Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, once published, may answer some of the questions that currently remain unanswered.

“The ongoing Garda investigation since 2010 has prevented publication of these two reports. It has not, however, prevented the HSE from implementing the recommendations in the Conal Devine report including a national foster care audit, which is welcome.”

In relation to the controversy about the issuing of an apology to this vulnerable person, Ms Lynch said the confusion and lack of clarity was very regrettable, and that it was important now to clearly establish the facts of what had occurred.

An in-depth investigation?

Earlier yesterday, in a radio interview, Ms Lynch said an independent inquiry into the issue might be required. She said that when she received correspondence from the Public Accounts Committee she had commissioned a “desktop review” by Mr Dignam.

Ms Lynch told RTÉ’s News at One that, after this review, Mr Dignam had suggested a more in-depth investigation take place. “I have never ruled out an independent inquiry and I do believe that’s where we are heading,” she said.

The controversy centres on how an 11-year-old girl with disabilities was placed in a foster home, despite the facility being subject to serious sex abuse allegations.

During the week the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the HSE of lying to it in correspondence last December when it said a meeting had been arranged at which the alleged victim of over a decade of abuse in the foster home was to receive an apology.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien yesterday promised to give a comprehensive answer to PAC on Tuesday. Mr O’Brien said he had asked the HSE’s social care division to look very carefully at the accusations so it could “get to the bottom of it” and give a comprehensive answer to the committee.

Minister Donohoe refuses to rule out Fine Gael relying on Lowry to support a new Government

High Court found Tipperary TD engaged ‘a litany of falsification and deception’


The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he rarely saw the Tipperary TD Michael Lowry in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has again declined to rule out the possibility of relying on Independent TD Michael Lowry for support to form a coalition government.

Speaking on Thursday, following a High Court ruling that dismissed the former minister’s appeal against a decision by the Moriarty Tribunal to only award him one-third of his legal costs, Mr Donohoe said the Government’s position was that it did not want to have to do a deal with any independents after the general election.

Reports last week suggested that initial talks had been held by Fine Gael with a number of Independents , including the TD from Tipperary, about the possibility of supporting the next government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly declined to rule out the possibility of a post-election agreement with Mr Lowry.

On Wednesday, the High Court found that Mr Lowry engaged in “a litany of falsification and deception” – including the falsification of a solicitor’s files – in his failure to co-operate with the tribunal.

On Thursday Eoghan Murphy, The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, said he is not contemplating requesting the support of Independents. Mr Murphy said he agreed with Taoiseach’s belief that returning the Fine-Gael and LabourCoalition was the best option for the country.

Earlier in the week, Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagansaid his party should not deal with any Independents, while Labour Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly launched an attack on Mr Lowry, saying he rarely saw the TD in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Mr Kelly said he did not believe it would be necessary to do any business with Independent TDs after the general election. “My ambition is to see this Government re-elected and I believe it will be re-elected,” he said.

Asked what his objection to Mr Lowry was, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t pay much attention to Deputy Lowry. I note I rarely ever see him in the constituency and I rarely ever see him in the Dáil, so I don’t pay much attention to him whatsoever.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton of Labour said earlier in the week that she believed Mr Lowry’s involvement in supporting the next government was “not appropriate”.

Our attitudes to ageing are impacting on our health

Negativity linked to poorer cognition.


How people feel about ageing appears to have a direct impact on their health, a new Irish research has shown.

According to the findings, those with a negative attitude to ageing have poorer mental and physical health.

The research was based on the latest data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) in Trinity College Dublin. TILDA is an ongoing study of people over the age of 50 in Ireland.

The study found that over a two-year period, those with a positive attitude to ageing had better cognitive abilities. However, those with a negative attitude had worse cognitive abilities and a slower walking speed.

These results stood even when others factors were taken into account, such as health changes which took place during the two years, medication, mood and other changes in life circumstances.

The study also found that a negative attitude towards ageing affected the interaction of different health conditions. The researchers pointed out that frail older adults have an increased risk of many health problems, including cognitive issues.

However, they found that among participants in this study, frail adults with a negative attitude had worse cognition compared to non-frail participants, but frail participants with a positive attitude had the same cognitive abilities as their non-frail peers.

“The way we think about, talk about and write about ageing may have direct effects on health. Everyone will grow older and if negative attitudes towards ageing are carried throughout life, they can have a detrimental, measurable effect on mental, physical and cognitive health,” commented lead researcher, Dr Deirdre Robertson.

How our plastic planet waste is the scourge of the whole World

Scientists warn that the ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming


Humans have made enough plastic since the Second World War to coat the Earth entirely in cling film, an international study has revealed.

This ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming, say scientists – for it confirms that human activities are now having a pernicious impact on our world.

The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste.

Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging.

“The results came as a real surprise,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of Leicester University.

“We were aware that humans have been making increasing amounts of different kinds of plastic – from Bakelite to polyethylene bags to PVC – over the last 70 years, but we had no idea how far it had travelled round the planet. It turns out not just to have floated across the oceans, but has sunk to the deepest parts of the sea floor. This is not a sign that our planet is in a healthy condition either.”

Marker for a new epoch?

The crucial point about the study’s findings is that the appearance of plastic should now be considered as a marker for a new epoch.

Zalasiewicz is the chairman of a group of geologists assessing whether or not humanity’s activities have tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, which ended the Holocene that began around 12,000 years ago.

Humans causing catastrophic ecosystem shifts: study.

The hot topic of climate change.

World’s oceans clogged by millions of tonnes of plastic trash.

Most members of Zalasiewicz’s committee believe the Anthropocene has begun and this month published a paper in Science in which they argued that several postwar human activities show our species is altering geology.

In particular, radioactive isotopes released by atom bombs left a powerful signal in the ground that will tell future civilisations that something strange was going on.

In addition, increasing carbon dioxide in the oceans, the massive manufacture of concrete and the widespread use of aluminium were also highlighted as factors that indicate the birth of the Anthropocene. Lesser environmental impacts, including the rising use of plastics, were also mentioned in passing.

But Zalasiewicz argues that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realised.

“Just consider the fish in the sea,” he said. “A vast proportion of them now have plastic in them. They think it is food and eat it, just as seabirds feed plastic to their chicks. Then some of it is released as excrement and ends up sinking on to the seabed. The planet is slowly being covered in plastic.”

In total, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is manufactured every year, states the paper, The Geological Cycle of Plastics and Their Use as a Stratigraphic Indicator of the Anthropocene.

“In 1950, we virtually made none at all. It is an incredible rise,” added Zalasiewicz. “That annual total of 300 million tonnes is close to the weight of the entire human population of the planet. And the figure for plastic manufacture is only going to grow. The total amount of plastic produced since the Second World War is around 5 billion tonnes and is very likely to reach 30 billion by the end of the century. The impact will be colossal.”

As the paper makes clear, plastic is already on the ocean floor, remote islands, buried underground in landfill sites and in the food chain.

Even the polar regions, generally considered still to be pristine zones, are becoming affected. In 2014, researchers found “significant” amounts of plastic granules frozen in the Arctic Sea, having been swept there from the Pacific Ocean.

In some cases, wildlife adapts to the spread of plastic. For example, on islands such as Diego Garcia, hermit crabs have taken to using plastic bottles as homes. However, most of the impact on wildlife is harmful.

Creatures ranging from seabirds to turtles become entangled in plastic and drown or choke to death. “The trouble is that plastic is very slow to degrade, so we are going to be stuck with this problem for a long time,” said Zalasiewicz.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Thursday/Friday 17 & 18th September 2015

M. D. Higgins rejects an recovering Irish economy

Responsibility needs to be taken for housing lists and homelessness needs to be addressed,

Says the President.


“Our planet is scarred by inequality, and inequality is growing, and the gaps are widening in what are described as some of the most prosperous parts of the world,” President Michael D Higgins has remarked.

Those in positions of authority should apologise for not valuing social housing more in the past in light of the current housing crisis, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Speaking at the launch of Merchants Quay Ireland’s annual report on Friday, he said inequality continues to rise in Ireland, and that he “recoils” from headlines boasting the domestic economy is resurgent once more.

“Our planet is scarred by inequality, and inequality is growing, and the gaps are widening in what are described as some of the most prosperous parts of the world,” he remarked, referencing educational inequality in particular.

“I think it’s important to realise how inequalities are increasing in Ireland itself. I recoil a little bit from a headline that suggests ‘The economy roars back’ – well, the inequalities are roaring much louder in the world.

‘Simply ridiculous’

“It’s simply ridiculous to say that you’re living in a republic with republican values if you have children with different access to literacy itself, in relation to reading the schoolbooks and so forth.”

The President indicated that responsibility needs to be taken for a situation that has seen social housing waiting lists lengthening and people sleeping rough on the streets.

“The public view has to change in relation to that. The public view in relation to whether or not you want to say housing is a right, basic shelter is a right, and that it is a mark of failure in a society if decent, safe shelter is not available.

“I think it would be a great thing to hear from some authoritative body like the County and City Management Association: ‘We’re sorry we didn’t value social housing more’,” he said.

His address was given in the wake of a speech by Merchants Quay Ireland chief executive Tony Geoghegan, who revealed his “deep concern” for the welfare of homeless individuals ahead of the impending winter.

A drop-in service

The organisation’s report stated that its drop-in service provided over 5,600 supportive interventions including referrals to emergency accommodation, and served nearly 80,000 meals last year.

“I think it’s fair to say that the homeless situation at the moment is just unprecedented – we certainly haven’t seen anything like it before and it is going to require an unprecedented response to do something about it,” Mr Geoghegan said.

“Looking into this winter, we are deeply concerned for the welfare of homeless people and what is going to happen, and I’m praying and hoping that it’s not going to take something as extreme as people dying on the streets, as it did last Christmas, before there is a response,” he added.

Talking to reporters after the launch ceremony, Mr Higgins cautioned against creating an artificial “war among the poors” between those struggling for basic services in Ireland and the 4,000 destitute refugees set to enter the State, in response to commentators who say the country should resolve its own domestic problems before welcoming a large influx of immigrants.

“The very most unhelpful thing that could happen is if some kind of false tension was invented between those who shouldn’t be waiting for health services, who shouldn’t be homeless, who shouldn’t be waiting excessive periods on waiting lists, and people who are excluded in other ways,” he said.

He continued: “Our future is a diverse society that plays to the best of our Irishness […] these suggestions are that you must set the poor in contest with each other as some kind of ‘war among the poors’.

“It has always been something that is negative, and of course in many places in Europe it has led to xenophobia and in some places racism – so let’s just see it for what it is right at the beginning.”

New €1m campaign to promote potato consumption in Ireland


A new €1m marketing campaign was launched today (September 17) to boost potato consumption among Irish consumers, by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

Bord Bia will coordinate and manage the three-year campaign which has been designed to dispel fattening myths around potatoes, positioning them as naturally fat-free, tasty and versatile.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, retail sales of fresh potatoes in Ireland have declined by 25% over the last decade and by as much as one-third between 2002 and 2014.

Speaking at today’s launch Minister Coveney said that the potato is part of our culture like no other food, inextricably linked to Ireland’s story and part of who we are.

“This campaign will bring the different varieties and versatility of the Irish potato to a younger generation,” he said.

The initiative will be co-funded by the EU, Ireland’s potato industry and the Department of Agriculture and will be run in conjunction with the British Potato Council.

The overall strategy is to implement a single umbrella campaign, across both the Irish and British market, which will raise the image and profile of potatoes, and re-establish their relevance within the weekly shopping basket.

The Minister welcomed the European Commission’s decision to approve a total fund of €4.6m to promote potatoes on the Irish and British markets over the next three years of which 50% will be funded by the EU.

My department is also availing of the opportunity to grant financial support to the Irish potato industry for this positive promotional activity.

“Combined with industry funding the total campaign will be worth €1m over the three years in Ireland,” he said.

Mike Neary, Horticulture Manager at Bord Bia, highlighted some of the challenges facing the industry.

“Potatoes are still Ireland’s preferred main meal carbohydrate, however shoppers under-45 account for only 33% of potato sales and these consumers will ultimately make up a major part of the total market in the years to come.

“Younger consumers view potatoes as a traditional, unexciting food and less convenient than modern carbs such as pasta and rice,” he said.

The new promotional campaign, entitled “Potatoes – more than a bit on the side”, will focus on younger consumers, in particular, 22-44-year-old females.

Neary said that we really need to challenge consumer perceptions of fresh potatoes – particularly amongst younger age groups – in order to combat declining consumption.

“This integrated campaign will highlight the fact that potatoes offer enormous potential within the world of modern cooking and build awareness of the added health and nutritional benefits of potatoes in comparison to competitor carbohydrates,” he said.

The campaign will include print and digital advertising and it will kick off with National Potato Day on Friday, October 2.

It is estimated a total of 9,122ha of potatoes were grown in Ireland in 2014 producing 350,000t. Last year, the retail market was valued at €184m.

The main varieties of potatoes grown in Ireland include Rooster (60%), Kerr Pinks (8%), Queens (8%) and Whites (7%).

Meath, Dublin, Wexford, Louth, Donegal and Cork are the largest potato growing counties with approximately 500 active potato growers in Ireland.

HSE failed to deal with ‘sexual contact abuse in home,

A report finds

Man involved in incidents of ‘sexual abuse nature’ with another resident and a staff member


A report published by the Mental Health Commission into Knockroe House found evidence of three instances of sexual contact between a man and woman in its care over a five-month period in 2014.

Pamela DuncanThe HSE is to carry out a review of mental health services in Roscommon after it was found to have failed to take appropriate action on recorded instances of sexual contact between two residents in a Castlerea community service.

A report published by the Mental Health Commission into Knockroe House, a 14-bed community residence on the outskirts of Castlerea, found evidence of three instances of sexual contact between a man and woman in its care over a five-month period in 2014.

It also reported one incident “of a sexual nature” involving the same man and a woman staff member.

The inspection report published on Thusday said: “Inspection of the Incident Report books in Knockroe House identified three recorded instances of sexual contact between two vulnerable adult residents, one male, one female, over a five-month period in 2014 and one incident, also of a sexual nature, involving a female member of staff in 2015.”

Failed to assess

As regards the incidents of sexual contact between the two residents the Mental Health Commission reported that the HSE had failed to assess the two residents as to their capacity to engage in a sexual relationship or take other steps to ensure “neither resident is placed in a position where they may be exploited”.

It also said that, in the absence of such safeguarding measures, gardaí should have been informed.

The inspectors noted that, following the third recorded incident between the two residents in August 2014, management separated the two residents: one is accommodated in another community residence from Monday to Thursday, returning to Knockroe on weekends when the second resident is on home leave.

The inspectors said this was not an appropriate action as the other setting was “wholly inappropriate” for the resident who had been transferred.

In a subsequent inspection carried out in June inspectors recorded a further incident of a sexual nature involving the same male resident.

General secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, Des Kavanagh said the Mental Health Commission report vindicated the concerns raised by nursing staff in the Galway/Roscommon mental health services prior to the April inspection.

“The incidents raised were clearly very serious and the response of management was not appropriate,” he said.

The HSE announced it had determined it “necessary to conduct a review of the quality, safety and governance of services within the Roscommon area”.

It said the review had been “prompted in part by a number of specific incidents” which would also form part of the review which would examine management, staffing levels and compliance with relevant national and HSE frameworks.

The HSE said it was conducting a systems analysis review into the incidents in Knockroe House as well as having commissioned an external review of the mental health services in Roscommon.

“As both these processes are currently under way we are unable to comment further at this time. The HSE has reported these matters to the Gardaí and safeguards have been put in place to ensure patient safety,” a spokeswoman said.

Mr Kavanagh said he hoped the review would result in an improvement of services and the safeguarding of residents in the Roscommon area.

Ireland’s plan to tackle alarming decline of our valuable bees


 “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

That is a comment attributed to Albert Einstein and reflects why 68 governmental and non-governmental organisations are busy with a shared plan of action to tackle pollinator decline and make Ireland a place where pollinators can survive and thrive.

The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020, published today, makes Ireland one of the first countries in Europe with a strategy to address pollinator decline and protect pollination services. The initiative has generated huge support and has culminated in agreement to deliver 81 actions to make Ireland more pollinator friendly.

The plan identifies actions that can be taken on farmland, public land and private land. These include creating pollinator highways along our transport routes, making our public parks pollinator friendly and encouraging the public to see their gardens as potential pit-stops for our busy bees.

With the support of organisations like An Taisce Green-Schools, it aims to ensure that everyone, from schoolchildren to farmers, gardeners, local authorities and businesses, knows what pollinators need and which simple cost-effective actions they can take to help. The Plan will also support bee-keepers in keeping our honeybees healthy.

“Unfortunately, Irish pollinators are in decline, with one third of our 98 bee species threatened with extinction,” said Dr Úna FitzPatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre, who chaired the plan steering group. “Bees are declining because we’ve drastically reduced the areas where they can nest.”

The pollinator plan is not just about protecting bees but also about protecting the livelihood of farmers and growers who rely on their ‘free’ pollinator service, which allows consumers to buy Irish fruit and vegetables at an affordable price. This service is worth more than £7 million per annum for apples in Northern Ireland, and €3.9m for oilseed rape in the Republic of Ireland.

It’s not just crops; about three-quarters of our wild plants also require insect pollinators. Without pollinators the Irish landscape would be a very different and much less beautiful place. The value of pollination to tourism and branding our produce abroad is enormous, but has never been assessed in a monetary sense.

Dr Jane Stout, Associate Professor in Botany at Trinity College Dublin, who co-chaired the group, added: “If we want pollinators to be available to pollinate our crops and wild plants for future generations we need to manage the landscape in a more sustainable way and create a joined-up network of diverse and flower-rich habitats as well as reduce our use of chemical insecticides. This doesn’t just mean in the countryside, but in our towns and villages as well.”

The actions in the plan are based on scientific evidence from research conducted in Ireland and elsewhere.

However, there are still gaps in our knowledge. Dr Stout’s Plant-Animal Interactions research group in Trinity College Dublin will continue to do research to understand the full implication of pollinator declines.

Bee aware

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the best ways to encourage bees of all types into your garden is by providing nectar- and pollen-rich flowers throughout the year.

  • Clumps of bee-friendly plants in sunny places will be more attractive than plants that are scattered or in shade. These include foxgloves, pussy willow, bluebells, honeysuckle, thyme, and summer heathers, while non-native species like sunflowers, sweet pea, and lavender will provide plenty for bees to forage on. Planting wildflower meadows will also greatly benefit bees.
  • Use pesticides sparingly. Those based on fatty acids or plant oils and extracts pose little danger to bees but will not control all pests. Do not spray open flowers.
  • Provide nest sites for bees. Some will nest in hollow stems, such as bamboo canes or herbaceous plant

As much as 3.3m people die annually from air pollution

A study shows


Air pollution is killing 3.3m people a year worldwide, according to a new study. Surprisingly, farming plays a large role in soot-and-smog deaths in industrial nations.

Scientists in Germany, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and Harvard University calculated the most detailed estimates yet of the toll of air pollution, and what caused it. The study projects that if trends don’t change, the yearly death total will have doubled to 6.6m a year by 2050.

The study, published in the journal Nature, showed that three quarters of the deaths are from strokes and heart attacks, said lead author Jos Lelieveld at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany.

The findings are similar to other, less detailed pollution death estimates, outside experts said. “About 6% of all global deaths each year occur prematurely, due to exposure to ambient air pollution. This number is higher than most experts would have expected, say, 10 years ago,” said Jason West, a University of North Carolina environmental sciences professor who wasn’t part of the study, but who praised it.

Air pollution kills more than HIV and malaria combined. China has the most air pollution fatalities, with 1.4m, followed by India, with 645,000, and Pakistan, with 110,000. The United States, with 54,905 deaths in 2010, ranks seventh. What is unusual is that the study says agriculture caused 16,221 of those deaths, second only to 16,929 deaths blamed on power plants.

In the US northeast, all of Europe, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, agriculture is the leading cause of soot-and-smog deaths. Worldwide, agriculture is the second-biggest cause, with 664,100 deaths, behind 1m deaths from in-home heating and cooking done with wood, and other biofuels, in the developing world.

The problem with farms is ammonia from fertiliser and animal waste. That ammonia combines with sulphates from coal-fired power plants, and with nitrates from car exhaust, to form the soot particles that are the big air pollution killers, he said.

In London, for example, the pollution from traffic takes time to be converted into soot, and then it is mixed with ammonia and transported downwind to the next city, he said.

“We were very surprised, but, in the end, it makes sense,” Lelieveld said.

He said the scientists had assumed that traffic and power plants would be the biggest cause of deadly soot and smog.

Agricultural emissions are becoming increasingly important, but are not regulated, said Allen Robinson, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not part of the study, but who praised it.

Ammonia air pollution from farms can be reduced “at relatively low costs,” Robinson said. “Maybe this will help bring more attention to the issue.”

In the central United States, the main cause of soot-and-smog premature deaths is power plants; in much of the West, it’s traffic emissions.

Jason West, and other outside scientists, did dispute the study’s projections that deaths would double by 2050. That is based on no change in air pollution. West and others said it’s likely that some places, such as China, will dramatically cut their air pollution by 2050.

And Lelieveld said that if the world reduces a different air pollutant — carbon dioxide, the main gas causing global warming — soot-and-smog levels will be reduced as well, in a “win-win situation in both directions”