The poorest population groups suffer more from fine particles because of their private and professional situations, according to a study by the VUB’s Interface Demography research group published on Thursday.
These socially vulnerable people are confronted with higher concentrations of air pollution and are also more sensitive to their negative health consequences.
For its study, the team mapped the relationship between air pollution and mortality in the Brussels region. In doing so, they linked, among other things, demographic data such as socio-economic situation and mortality due to outdoor air pollution concentrations.
The result is that the higher concentrations of fine particles in Brussels are mainly found in poorer neighbourhoods and that the risk of death due to air pollution is also higher there.
The higher concentrations of fine particles in these neighbourhoods are a consequence of their structure. They are made up of many narrow streets with a lot of traffic and little greenery. Moreover, in these socially vulnerable neighbourhoods, residents often live in poor quality houses with poor ventilation and insulation systems.
These same people are more likely to be employed in professions in the public space, such as bus drivers or street sweepers, so are therefore even more exposed to air pollution.
“These unfavourable living conditions, such as poor housing and working conditions, financial stress, unhealthy food reinforce the negative effects of air pollution on their health,” the study concluded.
“Our research also shows that people’s knowledge of the air quality surrounding them and the impact of this air quality on their health is limited,” explains Charlotte Noel from Interface Demography. “The government could better inform and raise awareness among the population about the health risks of air pollution. Again, prevention is better than cure. Once pollution is present, effective protective measures are limited,” she added.