Air quality in Flanders has improved considerably over the past ten years
Air quality in Flanders has improved radically over the past ten years. This was confirmed by two new reports, 'Luchtkwaliteit in Vlaanderen 2011’ Air quality in Flanders and ‘Lozingen in de lucht 2000-2011' Emissions in the air released by the Flemish environmental organisation Vlaamse Milieu Maatschappij VMM. In 2000 more than half the Flemish population was exposed to high concentrations of particulate matter for unacceptable periods, but this dropped to a third of the population last year. During the period 2000-2011 improved air quality went hand in hand with a 25% drop in direct emissions of particulate matter. Last year the average measured value for particulate matter at all Flemish measuring stations met Europe’s average limit for the protection of human health. Daily limits were still exceeded on a regular basis, but this was largely due to unfavourable weather conditions. According to Flemish minister for the environment Joke Schauvliege CD&V these figures indicate that the efforts made by the Flemish government have paid off. “We must continue along this route and increase our efforts where necessary, says Schauvliege as she points to the fact that the Flemish air quality plan must also ensure that the limits for nitrogen dioxide NO2 are met by 2015 with measures to limit nitric dioxide emissions in the road, shipping and industrial sectors. The VMM reports suggest that some heavy metal emissions are still too high, with unacceptably high concentrations of cadmium in Beerse, arsenic Beerse and Hoboken and nickel in Ghent recorded last year. As from 31 December this year Flanders will however be bound to the limits for these metals. The acidic emissions, which are the main ingredient of acid rain, have dropped by 42% since 2000. This dramatic drop could be attributed to the range of steps taken at industrial sites such as power stations and refineries as well as for heating in buildings. The emission of greenhouse gases dropped by 12% between 2000 and 2011 and the emission of CO2 carbon dioxide by 5%.