New standards for domestic solid fuels will be introduced across the State within a year, so that the most polluting solid fuels will no longer be available on the Irish market.

The regulations, which are being finalised and will be in place before September next year, will in effect make the entire country a low-smoke zone.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said he is making the announcement now to allow solid fuel suppliers to plan accordingly and continue to invest in less polluting alternatives.

At present, it is not possible to buy smoky coal in 42 towns and cities across Ireland, but elsewhere it is effectively a free-for-all.

That will all change by winter next year, according to Mr Ryan, and many people will have to make different choices when it comes to solid fuel for home heating.

All coal and related products nationwide, including manufactured solid fuel and peat briquettes, will be required to emit less than ten grams of smoke per hour when burned, reducing to five grams by 2025.

The sulphur content permitted for all fuels will also be halved over time.

Wood sold for heating will have to have a moisture content of 25% or less reducing to 20% within four years, while wet wood will come with instructions to the purchaser about how to dry it.

This will, in effect, amount to a nationwide ban on smoky solid fuel, not just coal.

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The minister said that when the Government was formed it gave a commitment to tackle air pollution caused by domestic solid fuel burning and it remains committed to doing so.

The Environmental Protection Agency has highlighted that the main source of the most dangerous pollution particles in Ireland is the smoke from solid fuel burning for home heating.

Some of these particles are so tiny they can pass through people's lungs, enter their blood streams, and get in to internal organs.

In the short-term, this can result in headaches, breathing difficulty, eye irritation or cardiac issues.

The long-term impacts however, include asthma, reduced liver function, stroke, heart disease and an increased risk of lung cancer.

Eamon Ryan has said that the new standards will mean people can still have fires, but using drier woods that are more efficient, burn better and are better value for money.

Mr Ryan told RTÉ's News at One that the ban on smoky fuels will help to clear up the air and reduce pollution, chimney fires and improve health.

He said that it will be much cleaner and that the regulation will give industry "plenty of time to start preparing alternative materials" which will save lives.

He said the current use of inefficient, smoky fuels is a bigger waste of money,

Mr Ryan said that the standards will get tougher over time, but that "letting the market rip and not having any concern for public health or the environment doesn't make sense".

He said there will be a recognition that a person with the right to cut and burn can continue to do so and the new standards will not apply to these individuals.

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According to the European Environment Agency, there were 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland in 2017 due to pollution from solid fuels.

The new regulations will be finalised in the coming months and will be in place for the 2022 heating season, starting in September next year.

A new Public Awareness Campaign focusing on the simple steps people can take to reduce air pollution from domestic fires in the winter ahead is being launched.

The issue of the provision of financial support to help people who are in or at risk of fuel poverty,to make a transition to healthier forms of heating over time is not addressed in today's announcement.

The Irish Heart Foundation has welcomed the new regulations, saying they will save lives.

"These measures will have a significant impact on this largely preventable loss of life as well as improving overall levels of public health," said Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation.

"There is simply no safe level of exposure to air pollution, and while these updated domestic solid fuel regulations still permit the burning of some solid fuel with stricter standards, they are a huge step in the right direction and will reduce the number of lives lost to dirty air."

The CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland has said while they very warmly welcome the new regulations designed to curb air pollution describing it as "a very substantial step forward", the Society was hoping to see something more ambitious and more impactful in the long run.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Sarah O'Connor said it was disappointing that "when you look at the fuels that are used in Ireland, smoky coal is only one of those which is is having a very substantial impact on air quality and on public health".

She said they would have liked if all smoky fuels would were included in these regulations.

However, a group representing suppliers of solid fuels said it was "disappointed at the lack of meaningful engagement" on the new standards.

The Solid Fuel Trade Group said: "The new standards follow on from existing regulations which have been supported by the industry and now include a wider range of fuels, including wood. It is surprising that there is nothing proposed to control the burning of sod peat.

"More detail is needed on how the impact on the fuel poor will be addressed. Concern remains over how tests will be performed to determine emission levels, what measures will be taken to eliminate sales of illegal, untaxed solid fuel and most importantly how the new standards will be enforced."