At the initiative of Greenpeace, 74 Walloon families have installed equipment to measure air quality at their windows over a one-month period starting on Friday. The data thus collected will be published on the eve of the local government elections.
Wallonia’s official pollution measurement network is not representative of the situation in its cities, according to the environmental organization, which aims to show that the Region underestimates its inhabitants’ exposure to pollution.
Following a call for applications, 74 households have been equipped with a tool comprising two tubes that collect pollution in the atmosphere, particularly nitrogen oxide. These tubes were scheduled to be uncorked on Friday for one month so as to give an idea of air quality in Wallonia’s six largest cities.
All participants live in the city centres of Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, La Louvière, Namur and Liège, either in streets with heavy road traffic or in places without any official measuring stations.
The data will be analysed by the Dutch laboratory Buro Blauw, then published in early October.
At the same time in Flanders, the University of Antwerp, the Flemish environment agency Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij and the daily De Standaard will publish the results of Operation CurieuzeNeusen (Curious Noses) under which 20,000 Flemish families and organisations each measured nitrogen oxide concentrations in their respective streets.
Greenpeace, which sued the Walloon Government in March to pressure it into coming up with “credible” measures in urban areas, is hoping to raise awareness among Belgians, and also to stimulate politicians into action ahead of the local-government elections.
Nitrogen oxide, a gas given off by the combustion of fuel, can alter the functioning of the lungs. According to the European Environment Agency, it is responsible for 2,320 premature deaths each year in Belgium.