The results of the first phase of the new “Brussels for Clean Air” project—the largest ever survey on air pollution in the region—highlight concerns about major pollution among Brussels residents.
The new “Brussels for Clean Air” campaign was recently launched by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) with the aim of improving air quality in the Belgian capital. The campaign invites all residents of Brussels to raise their voice on air quality, giving them a chance to become part of the solution to the problem. During the first phase of the campaign, which ran until the end of March, citizens were encouraged to fill in a short questionnaire to map problems with air pollution. Although not representative of the entire population, the results of the questionnaire highlight the main challenges of air quality according to Brussels citizens.
Speaking with The Brussels Times, Anna van de Moosdijk, Campaigning Officer from ECAS, said that citizens are generally very concerned about air pollution.Various health concerns—including severe coughs and other respiratory and dermatological issues—were mentioned by more than half of the respondents. According to van de Moosdijk, some people even considered moving away from the city due to the air pollution.
Some respondents said their children were developing asthma as a result of living in the city, and that their doctors said they should consider leaving the city because it is not sustainable and that their children will suffer too much from the consequences.Anna van de Moosdijk, Campaigning Officer from ECAS
About 17.000 people living in Brussels are exposed to very high concentrations of NO2, a pollutant that can contribute to the development of respiratory diseases. Generally, Brussels exceeds health standards on pollution levels in many different areas in the region, but some areas are worse than others, particularly the most deprived municipalities.
Even with the gentrification of these neighbourhoods ongoing, the situation here is nothing like in, for example, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, where there is more green space.Anna van de Moosdijk, Campaigning Officer from ECAS
A survey’s participant even indicated that they were considering moving to a different neighborhood where air pollution was lower, although that meant paying a higher price for the house rent.
Other respondents added that cyclists and pedestrians are more subjected to air pollution, in particular in those areas that lack efficient cycling infrastructure. Other bicycle commuters who participated in the survey highlighted that after cycling, they feel dizzy and nauseous even if they wear a face mask.
I am the one reducing air pollution, but I am also the one most affected by it, not those inside the car. Survey respondent.Bicycle commuter
According to van de Moosdijk, most residents don’t know which government levels deal with these policies and, consequently, they don’t know where to complain about inefficient circulation plans.
In the second phase of the “Brussels for Clean Air” project (running from April to June), citizens are asked to share possible solutions to the issues identified during the first phase. This will be followed by a voting phase from June to September, during which citizens will decide on the most efficient solutions. The most popular solutions will be then presented to the relevant administrations.