Largest-ever European air quality tests carried out in Antwerp

Summary

Clean air activist group Ringland is spearheading a research project to measure the NO2 levels in Antwerp in order to compare the results of future environmental initiatives

Nitrogen Dioxide

Activist organisation Ringland is joining forces with Antwerp University (UAntwerp) and the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to set up the project CurieuzeNeuzen (Curious Noses), which will map Antwerp’s air quality.

The partners will ask 1,000 Antwerpenaars to hang measuring tubes with sensors at the front of their flat, house, school, company or association headquarters from 30 April to 28 May. Scientists want to measure in detail the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, which is an important indicator for air pollution caused by traffic. It will be the largest-ever NO2 measurement project ever carried out in Europe.

The initiative can offer comparisons of pollution levels in different areas of the city and also give researchers a baseline with which to compare results of future projects aimed at improving the city’s air quality. Next year, the City of Antwerp is introducing a low-emissions zone, meaning that vehicles not conforming to environmental standards will not be allowed to drive in the city centre.

Ringland, a citizens’ group that campaigns for an alternative to the Flemish government’s BAM plan to join the Antwerp ring road, hopes that the ring will be covered in the future, making it essentially into a tunnel.

UAntwerp has recently set up similar projects in which citizens are actively involved. For the AIRbezen initiative, Antwerpenaars put 1,100 strawberry plants on windowsills so that researchers could measure the amount of fine dust in several areas.

To spearhead these kinds of projects, Ringland has organised a study department called the Ringland Academy.

Photo courtesy Ringland

Pollution in Flanders

With its high population density, heavy traffic and industry, pollution is one of the most vital environmental and health challenges facing Flanders. The levels of fine particulates in Flemish cities are among the highest in the world.
Particles - Fine particulates are air pollutants emitted by sources such as industries, power plants, vehicles (in Flanders, diesel cars especially) and domestic heating, and can cause respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long run.
Air - According to the European Commission, residents in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent have been exposed to unhealthy levels of fine dust pollution levels since 2005. Belgium has already received two warnings from the Commission since 2012 to improve the local air quality.
Smog alarm - Speed limits are temporarily lowered when air pollution levels exceed certain thresholds. At the lowest of the three grades of pollution, speed limits in Brussels are reduced to 50 km/h in cities and to 90 km/h on parts of Flemish motorways.
13

months of life lost because of air pollution

70

alarm level for microgram level of fine particulates per cubic metre

6

billion greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalents in Flanders in 2011