How to improve the air quality in cities ?


As you know, air pollution is directly linked to climate degradation and causes major damage to the environment (greenhouse effect, global warming, melting glaciers, acid rain).


Beyond the environmental aspect, air quality is also a public health issue. In Europe, air pollution is responsible for 400,000 premature deaths per year, according to the European Environment Agency. According to WHO, Air pollution is now the single most important environmental factor affecting health. Everyone is affected, whether in rich countries or in poor countries. It is estimated that air pollution kills nearly 7 million people a year worldwide and this figure is constantly increasing. Pollutants are both gases and particles that can impact the vascular and pulmonary systems, depending on your condition or age.


The gases most often found are nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particularly linked to automobile traffic and which tends to accumulate in winter, ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). For there to be pollution peaks, you first need a high concentration of pollutants and the air masses remain above a place (no wind or rain).

Regarding particles, the smaller they are, the more they will enter the lungs because their lifespan in the atmosphere and their range can be long. PM2.5 are therefore more harmful than PM10. Sources include traffic, heating systems, industry and agriculture, among others.

Heat waves are a breeding ground for degradation of air quality (ozone peaks, for example). During these episodes, the cities become veritable furnaces caused by the massive presence of concrete and a lack of vegetation. While in winter, pollution peaks ("smog") occur mainly through the accumulation of pollutants linked to automobile traffic and the heating of buildings.


This issue concerns us all, citizens, organizations as well as political leaders, fauna and flora.


What solutions are considered?

During confinement, the ISSEP (the benchmark institute in Wallonia) readings indicate a significant decrease of certain gases such as nitrogen dioxide. This solution is obviously not sustainable ...

At the scale of a city, different entrepreneurial solutions can be identified, addressing in particular the greening of urban centers, mobility, industry or heating systems.

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