Schoolchildren in Brussels will measure the quality of the air they breathe for the next few months, under an initiative launched on Monday by a citizens’ collective in about a dozen schools.
The “Petits Poumons” (Little Lungs) campaign launched by “Les Chercheurs d’Air” (Air Seekers), has a twofold objective: measuring the air quality in and around participating schools, and spreading the data collected from the children.
In each school, students will measure fine-particle concentrations while some schools will also monitor concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Alongside these activities, workshops will be organised by Brussels University, ULB, to enable the children to learn about sources of air pollution, understand its effects on health, learn to analyse collected data, and discover existing solutions for taking action against it.
Les Chercheurs d’Air stressed that children are the first victims of air pollution. As they grow, they inhale more pollution than adults since they have a higher breathing rhythm, it noted.
“Moreover, because of their short stature, they are closer to certain sources of pollution such as exhaust pipes, and are exposed to higher concentrations of pollutants,” the collective explained in a press release.
Les Chercheurs d’Air will use the data collected by the children to identify those schools that are most exposed to pollution. “We shall call for concrete measures such as passenger streets around schools to be implemented,” Pierre Dornier, a member of the movement, notes. “Ixelles, Brussels and Anderlecht support this campaign,” he said, hoping that other communes would follow suit.
The amount of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide particles in the air in Belgium continues to exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
“In 2016, in Belgium, fine particles reportedly caused the deaths of 7,600 persons, nitrogen dioxide was said to have caused 1,600 premature deaths and ozone 180 deaths,” the citizens’ collective note. “Road traffic is said to cause one in every four cases of asthma among young people under the age of 18 in our country.”
Studies show that pollution has many negative effects on children’s health. These include weakened lung function, surging caseloads of asthma and chronic bronchitis, increased risk of obesity, neurological disorders and depression.