The quality of the air in about 61% of Belgian schools is worrying and even poor, while only 3% have good air quality, Greenpeace reported on Wednesday, based on the findings of a study done in 222 schools. Under the study, conducted by the BuroBlauw specialized laboratory, the 222 schools (64% in Flanders, 19% in Wallonia and 17% in Brussels) measured the concentrations of nitrogen oxide (NO2) in their streets, recreation yards and classes in November and December 2017. It found that 101 schools registered NO2 concentration results above 20 µg/m3 (mediocre quality) in the street; 29 recorded NO2 concentrations above 30 µg/m3 (poor quality), while the results in five schools were above the legal European threshold of 40 µg/m3. NO2 concentrations were 13% higher during school hours.
“We chose nitrogen oxide because it’s quite easy to measure and it’s a very good general pollution indicator”, Joeri Thijs, head of mobility at Greenpeace, explained. “Diesel vehicles are the biggest culprits in this pollution.”
According to the environmental organization, current measures against diesel, which include readjustment of excise duties and the establishment of low-emission zones in Brussels and Antwerp, are steps in the right direction but do not go far enough. “In Paris, diesel will be banned in 2024 and gasolene-powered cars in 2030; there are much more ambitious ideas abroad”, said Lié vin Chemin, air quality and mobility expert with the Urban Movement for a Sustainable Brussels, BRAL.
The study recommends the establishment of “school streets”, closed to traffic twice per day – at the beginning and end of the school day. Each school has received its results and will be able to draw the attention of local authorities through a petition.
Greenpeace is conducting this campaign, titled “My air, my school” in collaboration with the League of Families, BRAL, the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) school of public health and the Flemish association for respiratory health and the fight against tuberculosis, VRGT.