Shocking levels of Brussels pollution revealed

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Independent air quality measurements carried out by environmental law organisation ClientEarth have revealed the shockingly high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on the streets of Brussels and alarming flaws in the official monitoring network.

Concentrations of the gas, which in Brussels comes mostly from diesel vehicles, were in places almost two and a half times the legal limit and almost double the highest official records published by Bruxelles Environnement.

ClientEarth measured NO2 levels at various points on four different streets of the capital: Rue Belliard, Rue de la Loi, Arts-Loi and Avenue des Arts. In all but one location – outside the parliament, well away from the road – there were illegal and harmful levels of pollution.

Outside the US Embassy, ClientEarth recorded levels just under 100 μg/m3 on average during the measurement campaign. The legal limit is an annual mean of 40 μg/m3. On Rue de la Loi concentrations were above 90 μg/m3. During the same period, the highest official records published by Bruxelles Environnement were just over 50 μg/m3 (Avenue de la Couronne).

ClientEarth, along with five Brussels residents, has taken legal action against the Brussels government for failing to deal with illegal levels of air pollution in the capital and failing to monitor it effectively.

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: These are simply shocking levels of air pollution. By hiding the real state of the air in the capital, the Brussels government is exposing all of us to unacceptable health risks.

Brussels citizens’ right to clean air has been denied for too long. The Brussels government has a legal and moral obligation to immediately correct the alarming flaws in its monitoring network. As it stands, they are not giving us an accurate picture of air quality in the city.

“The authorities must also adopt urgent and ambitious measures to bring the levels of air pollution within the legal limits in the shortest time possible.”

Karin De Schepper and Lies Craeynest, who live in Brussels and who are claimants in the legal case, said: “These results show that the situation is much more serious than we thought. We’re worried that children and other vulnerable groups are breathing toxic air on a daily basis, causing irreparable damage to their health.

“We expect our government to properly inform and protect its citizens. The Brussels Region has announced a first package of measures. We’re counting on the Region and municipalities to combine their efforts as soon as possible and step up ambition. These alarming results show once again that we need effective policies to make healthy mobility easy and attractive for all. Nobody stands to lose, if everyone’s health stands to gain.”

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