- Air pollution in Brussels is mainly caused by automobile traffic and wood stoves.
- Air pollution levels in Brussels are violating the thresholds set by EU legislation. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European norms are still too low to protect the health of citizens. The fine particle concentration in Brussels is 80% higher than what the WHO considers safe for our health.
- The very small particles (fine particulate matter) and nitrogen oxide emissions are particularly harmful to our health and can cause respiratory problems. Much of these come from diesel cars. Company cars are used for the majority of the mileage driven in and around Brussels, and are more often diesel. Since dieselgate we know that even the newest dieselcars still emit 5 to 10 times more than what is legally allowed.
- Air pollution can cause respiratory diseases, especially with vulnerable people such as children, the elderly and asthma patients. It reduces the lung function and aggravates diseases like asthma, but also can lead to cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Every year 632 people die prematurely in Brussels because of unhealthy air.
- 20% of lung cancers would be related to air pollution. Women are twice as likely to get breast cancer when chronically exposed to polluted air.
- Chronically exposition to air pollution during pregnancy leads to premature birth and low birth weight. Children who live in polluted areas have a reduced lung function and and increased risk of asthma. Air pollution also impairs concentration and cognitive capacity, which negatively impacts school performance.
- In Belgium air pollution carries an annual cost of 17 billion Euros or 6% of our GDP. This is a huge cost which would be better invested in clean technologies that are beneficial to everyone.
What is the Brussels government doing?
The new Brussels Regional Air-Climate-Energy Plan of June 2016 contains a number of positive measures. The introduction of a Low Emission Zone from 2018 is good news, though there is little guarantee that this measure will deliver clean air quickly. Dieselcars will still not be forbidden, and since dieselgate we know that even the newest diesels still emit 5 to 10 times more than what is legally allowed.
The current Brussels air quality plan gives a long overview of actions, such as improved urban planning, promoting less polluting transport and reducing commuting/school runs, but no priorities are put forward. There is a lot of talk of ‘encouraging’ and ‘planning’, but without setting clear priorities and agreeing a clear calendar, there is no guarantee there will be results soon.