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|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 23 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Antwerpen air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Friday, Feb 23
Good 24 AQI US
|Saturday, Feb 24
Good 22 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 24 AQI US
Good 23 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Good 49 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Moderate 58 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Moderate 58 AQI US
|Friday, Mar 1
Good 44 AQI US
|Saturday, Mar 2
Good 29 AQI US
|Sunday, Mar 3
Moderate 57 AQI US
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Antwerp or Antwerpen is a city in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp province in the Flemish Region. With a 2018 estimated population of 520, 504 people, it is the most populous city in Belgium, and with a metropolitan population of around 1,200,000 people.
At the beginning of 2021, Antwerp was experiencing a period of “moderate” quality air with a US AQI reading of 76. This is based on the classification suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The concentrate level of PM2.5 was 24.1 µg/m³.
Even though this is moderate quality air, the advice is to close doors and windows to stop the ingress of poor quality air into the house.
In Antwerpen, the industry in the port has an influence on air pollution. Traffic also plays an important role.
'The high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide above large parts of the country can also be explained by the large number of diesel cars and the dense road network,' says an air quality expert at Greenpeace. 'Traffic remains the biggest threat to our health, and certainly that of our children. Because we are more often and more closely exposed to the pollution from car exhaust pipes than to the dirty air from the chimneys of the port of Antwerpen.
Internal combustion engines of cars, trucks, motorcycles and ships emit air that is a complex mixture of hundreds of toxic components. The World Health Organisation has even named this polluted air as a carcinogen.
Particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and soot are some of the most important elements of this polluted air. The Antwerp Ring can be seen as a major source of air pollution.
But traffic is not the only source of air pollution. A lot of particulate matter in the air was measured early last year. Heating homes with wood and the application of manure by farmers contributed to these high concentrations. The weather also plays an important role.
In 2019, for the months of July, September and October, Antwerp attained the target figure laid down by the WHO of less than 10 µg/m³. June and August saw figures between 10 and 12 µg/m³ which graded it as “Good”. For the remaining 7 months, the quality of air could be described as “Moderate”. Looking back at the previous years’ figures it can be seen that the air quality is not improving very quickly. In 2017 the figure was 14 µg/m³, in 2018 it was 14.4 µg/m³ and 2019 it was 12.9 µg/m³.
The air quality in Antwerp is problematic. Greenpeace claims this on the basis of satellite data. In the analysis, the whole of the country, but especially Flanders scores poorly. The European Space Agency's new satellite, the Sentinel-5P, allows the study and comparison of the world's most polluting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions sources.
Based on this data, the environmental organisation has published an interactive map showing the fifty largest nitrogen dioxide hotspots in the world. Belgium is one of the four most polluted countries in Europe, according to Greenpeace. Antwerp is one of the global nitrogen dioxide hotspots, along with Taiwan, Buenos Aires and Paris.
Particulate matter refers to very small, often microscopic particles present in the air often referred to as PM10, PM2.5 (depending on the size of the particles). There is not yet a consensus about the relationship between the fineness of the particles and the impact on health, some experts assume that the smaller the particles are, the greater the negative impact on health.
It can generally be assumed that a layer of particulate matter hangs above the whole of Flanders, of which about 60 per cent comes from outside the region. Figures also show that the largest source of particulate matter above the Antwerp zone is from households (e.g. burning wood). Road traffic accounts for only 13 per cent of the particulate matter that hangs above Antwerp. The port is not included in the Antwerp zone.
The air quality in Antwerp must and can be improved. It is extremely difficult to summarize the available information and expertise on air quality in a number of key messages due to the complexity of the matter, but also because research in this area is often still ongoing, or is not uniform.
The economic cost of the health impact of air pollution in Belgium was estimated by the World Health Organisation at 17.7 billion euros per year. At least 50 per cent of this is caused by transport and traffic. It is difficult to calculate exactly how much of this cost comes from the Antwerp ring road. But it is clear that limiting air pollution will bring economic savings.
Every year, more than half a million Europeans die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. The European Environment Agency (EEA) writes this in a report. Particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) are the three pollutants that have the greatest impact on health. Together they caused 518,700 premature deaths in 2015. That is a lot better than in 1990 when the number of 'air pollution deaths' was more than twice as high. European air quality standards and national measures are therefore getting better.
Road traffic is clearly the main source of nitric oxide emissions in the Antwerp zone with 74 per cent. Nitrogen dioxide causes damage to the respiratory tract, eyes, throat and nose. Antwerp's plan to be the first city to create a low emission zone will certainly contribute to a decrease in locally produced nitrogen dioxide.
Studies also indicate that under normal conditions (without COVID-19) on days with elevated particulate matter concentrations such as this weekend, between 3 to 5 per cent of hospital admissions due to respiratory problems can be attributed to particulate matter. Because exceptionally tough measures are currently being taken to reduce the risks of mortality and keep the pressure on our health system workable, elevated dust concentrations are an important factor to consider. Less fine dust means less pressure on hospital admissions caused by air pollution.