As of January, the Brussels Region will measure the air quality in and around schools, ministers and State secretary Céline Fremault, Bianca Debaets and Pascal Smet announced Monday. The operation will take place in fifty schools for two four-day periods during the mild and cold months.
In March, Greenpeace published the results of a study showing that the air quality is poor, even worrying, in many schools in Belgium. The environmental organization had measured the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration in the street, on school playground and in class in November and December 2017. Displeased parents had initiated actions, particularly in Brussels, to call for measures.
The regional government in turn decided to conduct a study that bearing on the “black carbon” – or soot carbon – level, which is easier to measure with portable instruments and is an indicator of car traffic density. These measuring instruments will be given to three teachers per school, who will carry them around their neck for four days running. The final report will be submitted in April 2021. Two intermediary reports are expected in September 2019 and in June 2020. “We want parents to know that we listen to them,” Mrs. Fremault insisted.
This measure fits within the climate quality plan adopted by the Region, which progressively limits the use of highly polluting vehicles within the capital or plans a “diesel exit’’ in 2030.
Before the holidays, the Chamber adopted a legislative proposal to authorize “school streets” by creating a specific road sign. It is about closing a street when schools open and close, or even making them partially or totally pedestrian areas. Two are already in place in the Brussels Region: one downtown and one in Saint-Josse. “School streets should be the rule. A child must be able to go to school safely and in a healthy atmosphere,” Mrs. Debaets explained.
A fund of one million euros per year will help the municipalities set up such a facility.