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Liège and Namur among top 50 European cities for air quality

16:33 18/07/2022

Liège and Namur were the only Belgian cities to make it into the top 50 in terms of air quality across Europe, according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). 

The agency collected data on the levels of particulate matter in the air of 344 European cities, reports VRT.  

Particulate matter is a collection of microscopic dust particles suspended in the air as a result of combustion processes or reactions of ammonia, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. It’s associated with various health complications, including respiratory infections, asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Road traffic is one of the largest sources of particulate matter, together with domestic heating and energy production (by power stations burning fossil fuels or wood pellets).

When it comes to the European cities with the least amount of particulate matter in the air, Umeå (Sweden) claimed the number one spot, with Portuguese cities Faro and Funchal rounding out the top three.

Italy worst country for air pollution in Europe

Italy performed the worst by the study’s metric, with four of the five cities with the worst air quality located in the country. After Poland, Italy is the largest emitter of particulate matter in Europe. The two countries together account for a third of total European emissions.

Liège finished in 42nd place with a measured value of 7.7 µg/m³, with Namur in 46th place. Brussels is ranked 158, Bruges came in at 172, Ghent was 217th and Antwerp was ranked at 220.

In all the Belgian cities measured, particulate matter pollution is higher than the 5 μg/m³ advised by the World Health Organisation. This is also true of almost all the European cities measured, with only 11 of them achieving the WHO standard. 

But when judged against the more flexible European standard of 25 μg/m³, just three cities across Europe failed to meet it: Padua and Cremona in Italy, and Nowy Sacz in Poland.

While no other Belgian cities cracked the top 50, that isn’t to say progress hasn’t been made when it comes to air pollution. Nitrogen emissions have fallen sharply in the country over the past 30 years, outperforming the European average, and Belgium is one of just two EU member states already meeting its air quality commitments. 

“All Member States, except for Belgium and Estonia, need to reduce emissions for at least one pollutant to fulfil their 2030 commitments,” the EEA report reads.   

Emissions of ammonia, which come primarily from agriculture, are down 48% in Belgium, which is 19% better than average.

Photo: City of Liège


Written by Helen Lyons