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Brussels' air pollution 'killing two a day'

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-09 10:16

The huge fleet of business and government cars on the streets of Brussels, Belgium is a major reason why air pollution in the city is among the worst in Europe, a group of worried experts has claimed.

The city, which is at the center of the European Union's political and administrative machine, is seeing a severe impact on residents' health, said the 140 doctors, environmentalists, and other specialists who signed an open letter published in Belgium's national newspapers on Sunday.

"Every year, more than 900 Brussels residents die prematurely due to poor air quality," said the letter, which was produced by campaign group Les Chercheurs D'air.

The letter claimed the number of deaths attributable to air pollution amounts to more than two per day, and equates to around 10 percent of all deaths in the city.

The letter-writers urged the city's leaders to address the problem by following the lead of London, England and Paris, France, which they said had taken effective steps to curb air pollution.

The warning followed research from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, or ISGlobal, which ranked Brussels the eighth-worst among Europe's 800 cities for nitrogen dioxide, a harmful byproduct of the internal combustion engine.

The research found Brussels is blighted by high levels of fine-particle pollution, which ends up in people's blood and contributes to the risk of attention deficit disorder in children, and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature births, and stroke in adults.

Pierre Dornier, director of Les Chercheurs D'air, told The Guardian newspaper:" (Mayor) Sadiq Khan in London and (Mayor) Anne Hidalgo in Paris, for example, are fighting more passionately to improve air quality than many Brussels leaders. They allow ambitious measures to be put in place, maintained and strengthened, even when vocal minorities oppose them."

Dornier said the group is especially eager to see Brussels follow London and Paris in introducing strict low-emission zones.

Les Chercheurs D'air said in its letter the zones are frequently unpopular with motorists but are sorely needed.

Brussels has a plan to phase out the use of vehicles powered by fossil fuels by 2035, but some politicians have tried to delay it.

"Our job is to combat air pollution in Brussels. What we want to achieve is give the right to Brussels citizens to breathe air that is not toxic, that doesn't damage their health," Dornier added.

The ISGlobal research said, overall, air quality in Europe has improved during the past 20 years but, despite that, most people still live in areas that have air pollution levels that exceed the World Health Organization's recommendations. ISGlobal said, for example, 98 percent of the 543 million people in 35 European countries have to live surrounded by unhealthy levels of PM2.5 small-particle pollution.

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