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Summary results 2015

Europe defines and establishes standards for ambient air quality. The 2015 air quality results show that Flanders meets the European objectives for the majority of pollutants. For some pollutants, however, targets are not yet met.

The concentrations of heavy metals in the vicinity of a number of known sources are still too high. In 2015, lead was found to exceed the European limit value at one measuring station in Hoboken, located in the immediate vicinity of a non-ferrous metal plant. It is the first time this limit value has been exceeded since it was introduced in 2005. Arsenic and cadmium also failed to meet the European targets at this location. In Beerse, cadmium concentrations exceeded the European target value, and the target value for nickel was again exceeded in Genk. Here, too, the high concentrations were recorded in the immediate vicinity of metallurgical plants.

The European air quality target for nitrogen dioxide was not met everywhere. From 2015 onwards, the measuring stations in the Antwerp agglomeration and the Antwerp port area must meet the EU limit value that applies in the rest of Flanders. From 2010 to 2014, From 2010 to 2014, a margin of tolerance of 50% was granted to both zones. The measuring station in exceedance is located in the Antwerp agglomeration. Various measurement campaigns and model calculations show that the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide is also being exceeded in other cities and in areas with a lot of traffic.

In 2015, the information threshold for ozone was exceeded on seven days, and the alert threshold on one day. The European target values for the protection of human health and for the protection of vegetation were achieved everywhere. None of the measuring stations met the European long-term target for human health. The target for the protection of vegetation was met at two measuring stations.

The VMM measures two particulate matter fractions: PM10 and PM2.5. In 2015, all Flemish measuring stations met the European annual limit value for PM10. For the second year in a row, all measuring stations in Flanders attained the European daily limit value for PM10. The annual limit value for PM2.5 and also the lower indicative limit value applicable from 2020, were met everywhere in Flanders. The Flemish target for exposure reduction to be attained by 2020, was met in 2015.

The table below assesses the air quality in Flanders in light of the European regulations. These
standards have been incorporated into the Flemish legislation.

2008/50/EG  limit value     average on the basis of# stations meeting standard
hour8-hourdayyear

SO2

sulphur dioxide   Green tick icon Green tick icon 31/31
NO2

nitrogen oxide       

Green tick icon 

red tick icon

57/58

PM10 particulate matter (fraction < 10 µm)   Green tick icon Green tick icon 37/37
PM2,5 particulate matter (fraction < 2,5 µm)  Green tick icon 39/39
CO carbon monoxide Green tick icon 4/4
Pb lead red tick icon 11/12
benzene benzene Green tick icon 10/10
2008/50/EG - Ozonehour8-hourdayyear
Health 

 

 

Target value

 

Green tick icon

Long-term target

 

 red tick icon

Vegetation

 

 

Target value

 Green tick icon

 

Long-term target

 red tick icon

 

2004/107/EG - target valuehour8-hourdayyear
As arsenic red tick icon 9/12
Cd cadmium red tick icon 2/6
Ni nickel red tick icon  11/12
B(a)P benzo(a)pyrene Green tick icon 7/7

 

World Health Organisation guideline values not yet within reach

When comparing the air quality results for 2015 with the WHO (World Health Organisation) guideline values, we see that particulate matter, ozone and sulphur dioxide are particularly problematic. In determining its guideline values, the WHO considers only health studies and does not include considerations of technical feasibility or economic interests. As a result, the WHO guideline values are often more stringent than the values established by Europe.

Compared with these guideline values, the concentrations of:

  • ozone are too high at all measuring stations;
  • particular matter are too high at nearly all measuring stations;
  • sulphur dioxide are too high at half of the measuring stations.

There were also a number of sites where concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and heavy metals were too high.

For the protection of vegetation, the WHO defined a critical level for ammonia. This target level was met at all measuring stations.

The table below compares the air quality in Flanders in 2015 with the WHO recommended values

2008/50/EG  limit value     average on the basis of# stations meeting standard
hour8-hourdayyear

 WHO recommended value -   health

 

SO2

sulphur dioxide   red tick icon

17/31 

NO2

nitrogen oxide       

red tick icon 

red tick icon

55/58 hourly 57/58 annual

PM10 particulate matter (fraction < 10 µm)   red tick icon red tick icon

0/37 daily
3/37 annual

PM2,5 particulate matter (fraction < 2,5 µm)  red tick icon red tick icon

0/39 daily
0/39 annual

CO carbon monoxide Green tick icon 4/4
 O3 ozone red tick icon 0/19
Pb lead Green tick icon 11/12
Cd cadmium red tick icon 2/6
Hg mercury Green tick icon  2/2
Mn manganese Green tick icon 12/12
WHO guideline value – vegetation
 NH3 Ammonia Green tick icon 17/17

Read the detailled summary here

VMM contributes to a better air quality in Flanders. We continuously monitor the air quality by measuring the presence of harmful substances in the ambient air.

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