Awareness of air quality in Brussels is growing
Whether they originate from climate associations, schools or the government, many projects on air quality are seeing the light of day in Brussels. Bruxsel’Air sold more than 400 30-euro measuring air-devices and aims at reaching 500 in one month.
Backed by Greenpeace, 222 schools measured the NO2 levels in late 2017. Moreover, one hundred Aircasting volunteers took more than one million measurements.
Awareness of air quality in Brussels is growing but associations and civil groups won’t stop here. Bruxsel’Air has already sold 400 air-measuring devices at 30 euro a piece but it aims at reaching the 500-mark by May 26. “More than 300 devices were sold in two weeks, it’s impressive”, declares Pierre Dornier, member of Bruxsel’Air.
It’s during an information night on pollution and health that young physical therapist, Anaïs Louvet, learned about the association’s action. Today, an air-measuring device fixed to her house’s balcony and on the inside is giving live data information to her patients in the waiting room.
The grey PVC pipe that emits a slight whoosh every two minutes measures PM 10 and PM 2,5 small particulate levels. That day, they were at 10 micrograms per square metre inside and 45 outside for PM 10. “Results were quite normal in the beginning but the week of the pollution peak, the data exploded. It’s quite worrying”, declares Louvet.
Black carbon and NO2
Between 2015 and 2017, 276 volunteers recruited by Brussels-Environment received aethalometers to measure black carbon quantities during their morning commute. This action resulted in a very sparse map showing pollution levels. But it was just a beginning.
In late 2017, 222 schools backed by Greenpeace measured the NO2 air concentration in three different places: near the entrance, in the courtyard and inside classrooms. Moreover, during the ‘Curieuzeneuzen’ operation, 20.000 Flemish citizens measured ambient NO2 levels at home.
‘Informative but not scientific’
According to Nicola Da Schio, researcher at the Brussels Free University, these multiple actions are really good for raising awareness. “Measures and a detailed map don’t tell the entire story of air quality. The important thing is the population’s exposition”, explains Mr Da Schio.
In Brussels, six stations out of ten are measuring PM 10 small particulates concentration in the air and five others control the PM 2,5. Available in open source, the civil air measurements can provide more information. “But, between a 200.000 euro device and a 50 euro sensor, there’s a world of difference”, add an expert. Associations recognize that the measurements have a significant awareness-raising effect and that their major use is to push people to pressure governments.
The first General Assemblies on Air Quality will take place on April 24th and 25th in Brussels. The idea of such an event is to check in on scientific researches, find technical ways to exploit the available data on air quality in Brussels and to make demands to politicians before the 26th of May elections.
Sunday, May 5th, Greenpeace and Filter Café Filter are organizing an event on air quality, road safety and eco-minded mobility. For the occasion, two waves of cyclists will converge to Brussels from Antwerp and Ottignies. Since March 2018, Filter Café Filter fights for “healthy and pleasant environment near schools”. As of now, 26 streets near schools in Brussels are banning cars during drop-off and pick-up hours.