Brussels air quality tumbles, fails to trigger free transport

(1 Mar 2019) Fine particle matter in the EU capital’s air exceeded a warning threshold on Thursday (28 February) but did not worsen enough to trigger free public transport. In a separate development, one of the EU’s top lawyers urged governments to put monitoring stations where pollution is highest.

Air quality rules mean that authorities must inform residents when fine particulate matter (PM10) exceeds 50 micrograms per cubic metre, so they can adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Belgium’s Interregional Environmental Unit announced that readings reached 51 g/m3 in Brussels, 60 g/m3 in Wallonia and 63 g/m3 in Flanders. Car emissions, industrial output and burning wood for heating are among the main contributors.

Local people are encouraged to refrain from strenuous outdoor exercise, leave their cars at home and turn their heating down if possible, as PM10 can increase the risk of cancer, allergies and other health problems.

Under new rules adopted by the Brussels regional government last year, prolonged periods of bad pollution and air quality will trigger free public transport as a last resort.

Although Thursday’s pollution levels exceeded the threshold of when free transport could be offered, it did not last long enough for the measure to actually be triggered.

A spokesperson for Brussels transport operator STIB told EURACTIV that pollution levels on Thursday only activated the first level of a four-stage emergency measure plan.

In order for free public transport and bike-share schemes to be triggered, there need to be two straight days of bad air quality and forecasts of a further 24 hours of pollution. Rain and wind on Friday meant that pollution levels dispersed and dropped below the 51 g/m3 level.

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, 1 Mar 2019: Brussels air quality tumbles, fails to trigger free transport