What can you do to avoid breathing bad air?

All of us in Brussels, pedestrians, car drivers, cyclists and public transport users, are exposed to severe levels of pollution, often double the maximum amount considered safe by the World Health Organization.

This is worrying news indeed and despite some small steps in the right direction, the situation is unlikely to change overnight., But rather than ignoring the facts or panicking, there are steps  you can take  immediately to reduce the impact of air pollution on your health and that of your family and friends.

There are some quite easy things you can do immediately:

  1. Check daily air pollution forecasts in your area. Download the XX app on your mobile device.  Other sources include radio and TV weather reports, newspapers and you can register for alerts on the Brussels’ website: http://www.luchtkwaliteit.brussels
  2. Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are peaking. When air pollution is high, try to stay in, or don’t walk or drive on busy roads. Don’t let your children play outside if the air quality is unhealthy.
  3. Always avoid exercising close to busy roads, in particular canyon streets (with high-builds, which traps and hence increases pollution).
  4. Encourage your child’s school to start thinking and acting about air quality. Schools should know, and demand to know, what the levels of pollution are in their area, and take protective measures to protect your kids. Schools should ask parents to stop idling in front of the school gates and help them organise their journeys to school. They should also close windows and move sports classes inside in case of pollution peaks.
  5. Avoid burning wood. Wood burning is, next to emissions from transport, the second biggest cause of particle pollution (soot) in Brussels. Lighting a fire or a barbecue is cosy, but unfortunately it is also damaging for your health and that of other citizens


What can you do if you have no option but to drive a car?

Many of us lead busy lives and using our car often seems the easiest way to get from A to B, to arrive at work, , to take the kids to school or to go to the supermarket. . However our reliance on cars is ruining our own health and that of people around us and when we are stuck in never-ending traffic jams we are exposed to even more traffic fumes than other road users.

The good news if that  there are a whole host of things you can do to change this.

Drive Less

Fewer miles driven means fewer emissions. Follow these tips to reduce the time you spend driving:

  1. Walk or bike when you can.
  2. Use the bike-share programmes (Villo and new scheme for electrical bikes: Billy Bike)
  3. Use the multiple car share schemes that exist in Brussels (Cambio, Zipcar, DriveNow).
  4. Take public transport whenever possible.
  5. Plan ahead to make the most of your trips and “trip chain.”, doing several tasks in the same trip.
  6. Work from home periodically if your job allows it.


Drive Wise

The way we drive can reduce emissions from our vehicles. Follow these tips to effectively reduce emissions, drive more safely and save money on fuel costs all at the same time:

  1. Drive efficiently – go easy on the gas pedal and brakes.
  2. Maintain your car – get your car serviced regularly, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, and use the recommended motor oil.
  3. Turn your engine off when parked.
  4. Carpool with friends and colleagues instead of driving alone.
  5. If buying online, try to have all your packages sent in one shipment and with minimal packaging
  6. Don’t idle: The unnecessary idling of cars, vans, trucks, and buses pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and causes excess engine wear. It is, in fact, also illegal.

Learn more: Driving more efficiently

Choose Less Polluting Vehicles

If you have to buy a new car, look for fuel efficient and hybrid vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions. Electrical cars are the least polluting vehicles, but in conventional combustion technology, Euronorm 6 is currently the best available technology. These cars will also save you money on fuel costs. Furthermore, Brussels is introducing a Low Emission Zone in January 2018 in which polluting cars will be banned, with costs in the Zone becoming  more stringent as the years pass.

Check the official Belgian government’s website for guidance on car emissions, pollution and price.

What can you do to help in the fight for clean air?

People need to know what toxic air is doing to our health. Air pollution kills and makes lives for many of us miserable. It also has an economic consequences: the cost of healthcare, time wasted in traffic jams and days lost working. Yet only when more people are aware of these facts and put pressure on politicians to stop this happening will the situation change.

You can help create greater awareness about the problem of air pollution in Brussels and the solutions that can be put in place to make our air cleaner and healthier for everyone by taking some of these steps:

  • Talk to your friends, family, colleagues and fellow parents at your child’s school about your concerns about polluted air and the impact it has on your and everyone’s health.
  • Follow CleanairBXL on Facebook
  • Join thousands of Brussels citizens and sign the online petition for better air in Brussels. Every time someone signs, a message is sent directly to Minister President Vervoort.