In general, the air quality in the Brussels region is better than expected. However, standards are still exceeded in the capital center and the vicinity of significant traffic axes. The results were obtained from CurieuzenAir, the most extensive air quality study of Brussels.
As part of the CurieuzenAir project, air quality measurements were taken at 3 000 locations in the Brussels region for four weeks last autumn with the help of citizens. They were provided with a measurement kit that captured the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an important indicator of air pollution caused by traffic.
The research has now resulted in an interactive map of the air quality in Brussels. It shows that air quality is still good in large parts of the capital region. The average value is 24 micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air. That is well below the EU limit of 40 micrograms/m³. However, the WHO recommends not to exceed 10.
Principal traffic axes are polluters
In 1,4% of the tested locations, the standard is exceeded. This means that almost 27 000 Brussels residents breathe unhealthy air. In addition, there is poor air quality in the vicinity of the inner ring road and other principal traffic axes.
The five most critical points are situated along the canal, near Saint Gudula Cathedral, Place Madou, Porte d’Anderlecht/Anderlecht Gate, and Avenue Louise.
The research unveils that the air quality is excellent in more residential, wealthier neighborhoods such as Uccle, Auderghem, or Watermael-Boitsfort. Not surprisingly, the best air in Brussels is found in the Sonian Forest, with a value of 6,51 micrograms/m³.
According to expert Frans Fierens, the evolution is clear. “The more traffic, the higher the concentration of NO2. But the long-term trend is going downwards,” says Fierens in Bruzz.
The CurieuzenAir measurements further confirm that concentrations in Brussels have been going down in recent years thanks to the introduction of the low-emission zone (LEZ), the gradual improvement of the car fleet, and the regional mobility plan Good Move.
The downward trend is essential for Brussels since the capital still exceeds the European maximum levels for NO2. These will soon – almost certainly – be lowered even further. For the persistent exceedances of the EU-limit value in Brussels and Antwerp, the European Commission already started an infringement procedure against Belgium in 2018. This is still ongoing.
The results can be consulted on the interactive map via www.bruzz.be/curieuzenair.