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Emissions of fine particles (primary pm10)

The primary emissions of PM10 have decreased significantly in the Brussels Region since 1990, in particular between 1990 and 2006 (60% reduction). Since then, emissions of PM10 have stabilised.
In 2012, building heating in the residential and tertiary sectors was the main source of local emissions of PM10: it was responsible for 55% of direct emissions. The transport sector contributes to 42% of PM10 emissions, as a result of vehicle fuel combustion.

Context

Fine particles, also referred to as “PM10” (PM for Particulate Matter), are particles that are smaller than 10 µm in diameter. A distinction is made between the primary fine particles which are emitted directly by natural (for instance soil erosion) or anthropogenic sources (traffic, industry, heating,...), and secondary fine particles which form in the air as a result of chemical reactions between other existent pollutants.

The emissions of fine particles are dealt with in various European directives depending on their emission source. The emissions are regulated because of the particles' impact on human health; the health effects depend on their size (finer particles penetrate deeper into the lungs) and on their chemical composition. PM also affect the environment (climate, flora, or real estate).

Emitted amounts of PM10 per source

In 2012, almost 541 tonnes of primary PM10 were emitted in the Brussels territory. In 2013 (when emissions were calculated from a provisional version of the regional energy balance), these emissions amounted to almost 554 tonnes.

According to the 2012 data, building heating in the residential and tertiary sectors was the main source of local emissions of PM10: it was responsible for 55% of direct emissions (46 and 9% respectively). The transport sector contributes 42% of PM10 emissions, as a result of vehicle fuel combustion.


Sectoral distribution of the primary PM10 emissions in the Brussels-Capital Region (2012)

Source: Brussels Environment, Dpt Planning air, energy and climate

2012 is used here since it corresponds to the most recent data from a validated version of the regional energy balance. Data from 2013 have actually been calculated using a provisional version of this balance.

The data published in 2015 differ considerably from the data previously published, following an upwards revision of the emissions factors relating to wood heating in the inventories. Since this type of heating has a high value for fine particles, this had considerable influence on the results.

Evolution of the emitted amounts

The primary PM10 emission has decreased significantly since 1990, predominantly between 1990 (1,636 tonnes) and 2006 (690 tonnes, or a 60% decrease compared to 1990). Since then the PM10 emissions have stabilised.


Primary emissions of PM10 in the Brussels-Capital Region between 1990 and 2013
Source: Brussels Environment, Dpt Planning air, energy and climate

The decrease before 2006 can be explained by multiple factors.

  • The decrease occurred mainly in the road traffic domain, for which emissions fell from 729 tonnes in 1990 to 357 tonnes in 2005, despite the increase in traffic (according to Statbel, there was an 7% increase in kilometres travelled within the BCR in that period). The explanation for this undoubtedly lies in the technological improvement of truck engines and, to a lesser extent, car engines (catalytic converters, EURO standards,...).
  • On the other hand, emissions from the waste incinerator fell significantly between 2005 and 2006, following the installation of a filter in 2006 (but also a methodological modification consisting of revising the corresponding emissions factor).
  • The reduced cokes production followed by the closure of the cokes plant of Marly in 1993 explains the dramatic decrease between 1990 and 2000 within the category "Others".
  • Finally, the decrease of "other" emissions between 2005 and 2006 also results from a change in the calculation method for domestic navigation.
Datum van de update: 26/10/2018