According to Greenpeace, the area under and nearby the Craeybeckx Tunnel in Antwerp has air filled with nitrogen dioxide. The newspaper Gazette van Antwerpen reported this finding on September 13th, 2017. This study covered several school routes around the Meirbrug, Carnotstraat and Turnhoutsebaan roads in Borgerhout. From these, the Craeybeckx Tunnel gave the highest concentrations of this pollutant.

With a device placed on a child’s car seat, the organization was able to measure about 50 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter under this bridge and in the nearby area. According to Joeri Thijs, a spokesperson from Greenpeace, even short times of exposure to this type of air pollution can be detrimental.

But, what do 50 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide mean? According to the air quality standards of the European Commission, 40 micrograms per cubic meter is a permitted quantity. A 10 micrograms excess could mean an almost 2% increase in hospitalization according to the World Health Organization, quoted by this Belgian publication. Also, according to the WHO, the risk of asthma in children could increase by 15% produced by this type of nitrogen dioxide increase, but also due to other related pollutants. In areas of elevated concentration of nitrogen dioxide, the risk of low weight in newborns is high, as well as its negative impact on children shown in cognitive tests outcomes.

Now, what to do to avoid the negative effects of nitrogen dioxide? Nitrogen dioxide is produced through engine combustion. According to the UK plan for nitrogen dioxide reduction, published on July 17, one key step is the reduction of car use for transportation. Another key strategy is using low-emission vehicles, such as the electric car, already being used in several European countries. Finally, other smart steps are the use of bicycles, going by foot or taking public transportation (especially the low-emission transportation systems).