Air pollution in Dublin and other towns and cities last weekend was at a level not seen since before the introduction of the ban on smoky coal 30 years ago.

Professor of Physical and Environmental Chemistry at University College Cork John Wenger said when they followed up from data recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency last week they found that air pollution had spiked in many towns outside of the capital too, including Ennis, Tralee, Macroom and Letterkenny to name but a few.

"In each of these towns, there's a large amount of solid fuel burning going on so people are burning coal, peat and wood.

"The smoke from these fires accumulates under the weather conditions like we had on the south and west coast last week. So that includes still weather conditions, a low temperature inversion because its winter which means that the pollution has nowhere to go which builds up and falls away during the night," Prof Wenger said.

Air pollution levels in Rathmines and Ringsend, both in Dublin, were up to 15 times higher than EU and World Health Organisation guidelines on Saturday night last.

Fine particulate matter associated with pollution from burning solid fuels, known as PM2.5, recorded levels reaching almost 400 in Ringsend, and more than 300 in Rathmines last week.

Air pollution causes 1,300 premature deaths here each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA's Air Quality Manager, Patrick Kenny, said air pollution also impacts the quality of life.

"That impact will be most strongly felt by those of us who struggle with our lungs or with our heart but equally for everyone across society," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Kenny said the levels seen over the weekend were due to PM2.5 and the dominant source of those particles is domestic solid fuel heating systems.

In September, the ban on the burning of smoky coal was extended to an additional 13 towns but 61 towns are still not banned.