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Air unhealthy in Brussels and Antwerp, according to new map

11:46 10/02/2014

Air quality in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels is poor to the point of being unhealthy, while the air quality in the rest of Flanders fails to meet EU limits for fine particulates, according to the latest study by three government agencies: the Inter-regional Environment Office, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research and the Flemish Environment Agency.

 The three came together to draw up an interactive map of air quality across Belgium to present for the first time a picture, accurate down to street level, of how healthy the air is in any particular area.

The most striking aspect of the map is the orange-red colour surrounding Brussels, showing an unusually high concentration of fine particulates in the air, which have been linked to a range of respiratory complaints.

The darkest passages, showing concentrations of pollutants of 1.6 micrograms per cubic metre or above, centre on the Brussels Ring and downtown, Antwerp, Ghent and the region south of Kortrijk to the French border. Zooming in on Brussels, green areas such as Jubelpark, Ter Kamerenbos and the Sonian Forest have lower concentrations of fine particles. Within the region, World Health Organisation limits are generally exceeded: Virtually the whole population lives in unhealthy air, according to the map.

“The heavy traffic, with a lot of diesel cars in a small surface area, is the cause of the poor air quality in Brussels,” said Frans Fierens of the Inter-regional office.

“The air in our region is cleaner today than several decades ago,” said Tom Nawrot, researcher at the University of Hasselt, “when coal was being burned and there were virtually no environmental laws. However, most European countries are doing better than we are.”

Photo courtesy of Atmosys

Written by Alan Hope