An open letter by a hundred Belgian doctors was published today by Le Soir and De Standaard. The doctors warn the federal and regional authorities in Brussels about air pollution. “Despite an obligation to ensure cleaner air since 2010, the population lives in a dangerous and unhealthy situation,” warn the doctors.
“Air pollution is bad for the health of Brussels residents and commuters, especially for children, the elderly and people already suffering from an illness,” the letter says. It states that today “even non-smokers run the risk of dying from lung cancer”.
From cardiovascular risk to asthma to cognitive disorders: the effects of air pollution in Belgium are linked to “a significant reduction in life expectancy, which results annually in least 632 premature deaths.”
“This could be avoided if Brussels applied the WHO standards and respected the average concentration of fine particles of 20 microg / m³,” say the doctors. “An increase in life expectancy would result in savings of more than 758 million euros per year”.
“In the case of air pollution, scientific research leaves no doubt about the causes we must aim to protect the citizens against”. The resolution of this problem “lies with our government and our ministers”.
“A healthy air is also a fundamental and universal right,” says the open letter, which refers to a “silent and unacceptable health crisis”.
The doctors point to an insufficient policy, particularly in the context of the Air-Climate-Energy Plan set up by the Brussels government in 2016, which “does not meet (…) the requirements of the European directive on air quality” (Directive 2008/50 /EC).
A main cause is the use of diesel vehicles in the capital. Until a complete ban on diesel cars an obligation to use filters should be put into place, according to the doctors. Measures to provide clean mobility and fiscal disincentives against using fossil fuels are also required.