Greenpeace survey indicates that seven Walloon city-dwellers out of ten are breathing unhealthy air
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    Greenpeace survey indicates that seven Walloon city-dwellers out of ten are breathing unhealthy air

    On Tuesday, the eve of local elections, Greenpeace published the results of its operation “My Air, My Street”. For around a month, from August 14th to September 17th, about 70 families living at the heart of the six largest Walloon cities measured the rate of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at their window. Barely 30.9% of those taking part are breathing “good-quality air or acceptable-quality air.” Such is the finding of the data collected. For more than 8% of households, official thresholds are being exceeded.

    According to the results of the measurement campaign, 60.3% of inhabitants in urban centres are breathing in air which Greenpeace describes as mediocre or poor quality. Some 8.8% breathe in air, the threshold of which exceeds the legal limit.

    The 74 devices used for gathering atmospheric pollution data, and more particularly NO2, were all placed at the windows of dwellings located in Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, La Louvière, Namur and Liège, in the town centre or close to busy roads. Official measuring locations or stations were not installed.

    The legal limit was recorded as having been exceeded in Liège, the city where the average NO2 concentrations are the highest, together with Namur and Charleroi. The average annual concentration measured in the six cities goes up to 26.30 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3).

    To date, the annual NO2 limit fixed by the European Union is that recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), or 40 µg/m3. However, the WHO envisages tightening this standard. For its survey, Greenpeace believed that the air quality became unacceptable from 20 µg/m3.

    In parallel with its campaign “My Air, My Street”, the NGO has brought proceedings against the Walloon and Flemish governments to obtain official measurements, which more accurately represent air quality. Moreover closing arguments are expected to take place in these proceedings on Tuesday in the Namur Criminal Court.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times