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Politicians called on to improve air quality in Brussels

Belgian campaign group Les chercheurs d’air have gathered together 140 doctors and environmental experts to put their names to a letter which calls on candidates for the 2024 Brussels elections to act on the poor air quality suffered in the city.

Timed to coincide with World Health Day, the group aim to highlight the toll that air pollution takes on Brussels which at the time of writing has ‘poor’ air quality according to AccuWeather.Cars Parked in Front of the Law Courts Building in Brussels

Air pollution has been calculated cost the Brussels region €1.6bn per year, which represents €1,400 per resident. In some areas of the city, NO2 levels can exceed the WHO guideline by five times, while PM2.5 levels are often twice the recommended limit.

Nearly 900 Brussels residents die prematurely each year due to the poor air quality, most of which comes from road traffic, and it is that issue that the letter addresses, asking that the city follows the example of London and Paris by maintaining an ambitious Low Emission Zone.

The letter reads:

The European Union is in the process of reviewing air quality standards, so that they are stricter and closer to the WHO recommendations. However, this will take time to implement and the new limits will remain insufficient to properly protect the health of Brussels citizens.

We, doctors, scientists, health and environmental organisations, therefore ask you, candidates to the 2024 regional and municipal elections, to commit clearly and firmly to fighting air pollution at local level during your mandate if you were to be elected.

This fight must go through:

  • Strict maintenance of the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) timeframe, namely an exit from diesel engines by 2030 and thermal engines by 2035 at the latest throughout the territory of the Brussels Region. The LEZ is, to date, the most effective tool to combat air pollution in the city. It has enabled nitrogen dioxide reductions of almost 40% in certain places.
  • The development of low traffic neighbourhoods, like the one that has been set up in the centre of Brussels. The reduction in road traffic (by 15 to 20% in one year in the Pentagon district) implies a reduction in air pollution, but also in noise and the risk of accidents. This also frees up public space, which can then more easily be made greener.
  • The creation, wherever possible, of pedestrian and green streets in front of schools. It has been proven (see here and there) that school streets make it possible to effectively combat air pollution. Children, who spend a large part of their time at school, are then better protected from pollution.
  • A strong incentive to use collection points, rather than home delivery, for parcels, size and weight permitting. Deliveries, most often made by diesel vans, are a growing source of air pollution. However, 60% of Brussels residents live less than 5 minutes on foot and 98% less than 10 minutes from a relay point.
  • The development of car sharing to reduce the number of vehicles in the city. In fact, a shared car replaces several private cars, which helps fight air pollution. This optimization of vehicles also makes it possible to free up parking spaces and, thus, create opportunities for greening and/or increasing the space dedicated to active mobility.
  • Increasing the network of cycle paths separated from traffic on roads with heavy traffic. We recommend favouring, as soon as possible, the creation of infrastructures that are quick to implement and inexpensive, in order to ensure good security conditions in the short term (without waiting for the creation of large-scale projects).

We thank you in advance for your clear and strong commitment to the health of all Brussels residents.

 

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