European standards for fine particulate matter were complied with for all measuring stations in Belgium this year. This result completely mirrored 2015. Frans Fierens, the Administrative Director for the Inter-regional Environment Unit (known colloquially as Celine) indicated “This is more than coincidence. We can genuinely speak of structural improvement in air quality.”
The European standard was instigated in 2005. The standard specifies that, for each measuring station, the daily threshold of 50 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic metre of air can only be exceeded for a maximum of 35 days.
Roulers was the measuring station which came closest in 2016, with 30 days where this threshold was exceeded.
Mr Fierens concludes, “However, the chances of the amounts of such matter exceeding the standard are indeed remote. Favourable weather conditions are expected during the next few days.”
Flanders and Brussels complied with the standard for the third year running, whereas in Wallonia, one location had, in fact, exceeded European standards (this was Engis, in the province of Liège) in 2014.
However, the south of the country proved completely green in 2015. Frans Fierens acknowledges that climatic conditions have been fairly good in recent years. However he remains convinced that we can point to “structural improvement in air quality.”
He adds, “We owe this to a combination of local, regional and European policies, along with measures decided in all sectors, such as agriculture, industry, transport and housing.” He qualifies this report by stating that European standards are indeed less stringent than the values recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Furthermore nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a problem. Such concentrations are decreasing less rapidly than first anticipated. According to the Director, this can be explained by diesel vehicle emissions which are the largest sources of NO2.
He states, “Although NO2 emissions had decreased as quickly as reports had indicated, the situation may possibly have, in fact, been less of an issue.”
However since the vehicle emissions scandal, it is now clear that diesel cars cause more pollution in reality than they indicate in their brochure.