The new school year opens soon, but whether students go back to school on foot, on bicycle or by car, they and their parents will be exposed to excessively polluted air, Test-Achats said on Tuesday. The consumer rights organization is demanding measures such as enforcing a ban on parking with engines running and limiting speeds to 30 km per hour in given areas.
In a small experiment conducted by Test-Achats, three families assessed the quality of the air they breathed on the way to school for 24 school days. Using a small portable apparatus, they measured the quantity of 2.5 PM particles in the air. One family lives in Namur and travelled on foot, the second travelled by car in Brussels and the third rode bicycles to school in Ghent.
While this test cannot lead to general conclusions, it certainly reveals once again the poor quality of the air “around the three schools at peak hours”.
Road traffic remains one of the main factors of air pollution, which is dangerous to health, and can lead to asthma, cause respiratory ailments, shorten life expectancy, and reduce lung function. Children are particularly at risk since they “breathe in more air in proportion to their weight and thus take in more pollutants,” Test-Achats noted.
To improve air quality in Belgium, the ban on parking with engines running and the 30 km-per-hour speed limit will need to be respected, the organization says. It calls for the establishment of new low-emission zones and the development of cycle-lane networks away from traffic.
Test-Achats also advocates the designation of “school roads”, roads closed to vehicular traffic at the beginning and end of the school day, and a ban on parking in front of schools.