#CleanAirForAll: Brussels air quality network calls for better health protection for Brussels residents


At the occasion of the first International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies - 7 September organized by the UN - Brussels air collectives and movements call upon the Brussels government to show ambition in order to tackle air pollution, the single greatest environmental health risk and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally[1].

BRAL, Chercheurs d'Air, Clean Air Brussels, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research, Filter Café Filtré, Greenpeace, Luchtster, Bruxsel'air and HEAL demand Brussels government to come up with:

  1. Ambitious laws protecting the health of Brussels’ citizens
  2. Better and democratic monitoring of Brussels air quality
  3. A system to reduce car traffic
  4. Redesigning public space for Brussels’ citizens

While this is only the first International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies, there is little need to repeat how air pollution affects our lives. Every year, air pollution causes around 400.000 premature deaths and hundreds of billions of euros in health costs in the EU alone. WHO states that air pollution is a leading risk factor for major chronic diseases in adults, including heart and lung disease as well as cancer - and there is no safe level of pollution[2]. Our children are most vulnerable to air pollution. Consistent exposure in utero and childhood has lifelong consequences[3].

In Brussels, citizens and organisations have mobilised for better air quality by masking the statues, playing in front of the school gates and cycling from Antwerp to Brussels. The ambition: to make Brussels an inclusive, healthy city, with improving air quality as a first key step.

After the 2019 elections, Brussels air collectives met with the ministers of Environment and of Mobility and presented their demands to the Brussels Regional government.

  1. Brussels air collectives and movements plead for ambitious laws protecting the health of Brussels’ citizens. As health should be the first concern, Brussels air quality regulations need to take the WHO norms for all pollutants as an objective. Before the 2019 elections, all political parties agreed upon this, and it is stated in the governmental agreement. They insist that the reform of air quality regulations takes this ambition on.
  2. Brussels air collectives and movements demand to boost the existing air quality monitoring network, make it more democratic and transparent, as well as focus on at-risk areas. They are happy to see the see the implementation of citizen science projects to help raise public awareness. They hope that the new stations that have been announced by the regional government will be installed quickly to begin measuring not only where air pollution is highest, but also where the most disadvantaged communities live.
  3. The network asks to put in place a system that helps reducing car traffic significantly. The burning of fossil fuels for transport and car congestion are indeed key challenges to better air quality. We ask to introduce a congestion regulator on all motorised traffic related to Brussels Capital Region, like the one in Stockholm, where car traffic volumes dropped with 30% after its introduction.
  4. Brussels air collectives and movements demand a reallocation of public space towards active road users and residential functions. At the moment, about 70% of public space in Brussels is allocated to cars. In order to make Brussels liveable for its children, the network believes we need a coherent package along the lines of Good Move: redesigning streets and squares, promoting active modes, circulation plans to protect neighbourhoods, securing school environments, …

As in many European cities, COVID19 has changed how we move in and around Brussels. People started to cycle and walk more. As life resumes, lots of people stick to these habits which benefit air quality and the climate - and our health in many ways. As such, the current health crisis has given us a glimpse of what our cities could look like. Moreover, 68% of Europeans want to keep their cities car-free post COVID19[4].

The networks insists that the Brussels government sticks to the ambition it so clearly expressed at the start of its term.

“A lot has been done regarding all of our four demands. But a lot more still needs to be done to turn exploration and preparation into realisation. Now it is time to push forward and act in order to turn Brussels into a healthy and inclusive city offering the space and clean air the inhabitants deserve.” – Tim Cassiers, expert air quality and mobility, BRAL

Signed by:

BRAL, Chercheurs d'Air, Clean Air Brussels, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research, Filter Café Filtré, Greenpeace, Luchtster, Bruxsel'air.

In collaboration with HEAL, for the international campaign #CleanAirForAll in the framework of the first International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies of the UN

Press contact:

BRAL: Tim Cassiers, expert air quality and mobility, tim@bral.brussels,  0476 449 223

[1]  WHO, 2016 - https://bit.ly/3jcxZlL

[2] WHO, 2018 - https://bit.ly/34Ji62v

[3] HEAL, sd -  https://www.env-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Healthy-Schools_infographic.pdf 

[4] Politico, 2020 - https://www.politico.eu/article/life-after-covid-europeans-want-to-keep-their-cities-car-free/