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What can I do?

CATHERINE, aged 42


Breathing in polluted air is difficult to avoid but, in certain circumstances, you can limit your own exposure. There are also various ways in which you can contribute to better air quality, both indoors and outdoors. As a young mother of two, Catherine (42) thinks it’s very important for her children to know how precious the environment is and what they can do to preserve it. Like taking the bus or bike instead of the car for example. She is also keen to protect her family from air pollution.


What can I do?

Striving for healthy air is a shared responsibility. The government takes its responsibility, but you can help as well.

You can reduce your own exposure to air pollution, for example, and – above all – contribute to clean air by limiting certain forms of energy consumption.

Here’s how.

What can I do to reduce exposure to pollutants?

It is difficult to avoid exposure to contaminated air but, in certain situations, you can limit your own exposure. Here are a number of tips that can already make a big difference:

Quit smoking. The amount of particulates you inhale through cigarette smoke is exponentially higher than the amount of particulates you breathe in through air pollution.

Ventilate. Air at home is often of a poorer quality than the outside air, as there are various sources that pollute the air indoors. This is in addition to any contamination that was already present in the (outside) air. It is therefore wise to ensure continuous ventilation (evacuating used air and introducing fresh air) and aeration (creating a brief but substantial air flow, by opening windows and/or doors wide that are in contact with the outside air). If possible, it is best to ventilate and aerate on the side of your home where the least traffic passes. If not, then let the fresh air in before and after peak hours. In any event, do not keep the windows closed all day.

Move smart. Even within the same city the quality of the air can differ greatly. In a busy street pollutants emitted by traffic often keep lingering and the air quality is very poor, while at the back of buildings near busy streets the air quality will be much better. Especially the concentrations of traffic-related air pollution within a city can range from very high (e.g. close to a road with lots of traffic) to 10 times lower (at only 100 m away from that same road). That’s why it’s best to walk or ride your bike along roads with less traffic. This way you can be sure that you that you will inhale much less air pollutants.

Is exercising (sport/cycling) in the open air healthy?

Working out is healthy, so do not let yourself be put off exercising in the open air because of the poor air quality. People practising sports inhale more air and thus more air pollutants. This can lead to acute health problems. However, the negative effects of breathing in polluted air do not match the health benefits of exercising outdoors.

So for now there is no reason to advise against exercising in the open air. Besides, the more people who choose to exercise in the open air, the lower the emission of pollutants in traffic, naturally.

It is, however, advisable to avoid busy roads with lots of traffic if you can. The ‘move smart-principle’ is therefore also applicable during exercise.

What can I do to reduce my own emission of pollutants?

There are various ways in which you can emit fewer pollutants and therefore contribute to alleviating the problem. It may be a cliché, but every little bit helps. If everyone makes the right choices concerning transport and sources of energy consumption, then the air quality will improve far more quickly.

 Use the car less

Road traffic is one of the major sources of air pollution. Therefore, try to limit the use of your car as much as possible. Lower traffic volumes contribute to solving the social health problem. In other words, the less motor traffic, the better.

 It is better to cover short distances by bike or by foot. For longer distances, you can use public transport or carpool as an alternative to taking the car. You can also car share. If you share a car with other people, you will probably consciously use it less.

 If you really need to use the car, then opt an economical with the lowest emissions possible. Try to drive as environmentally friendly as possible.

Find out some more good advice by clicking here.

Heating buildings

The heating for homes and other buildings is a major source of air pollution. You can heat your home with various energy sources: Fossil fuels (coal, diesel, petrol, gas), biomass (wood), natural sources (solar or geothermal energy), electricity and industrial waste heat. The emissions caused by heating homes and other buildings depend on the energy source and the technology applied. The only systems with truly zero emissions are those based on natural sources (such as solar energy).
Can I still light the fire or multi-burner and can I still light candles? 

In the garden 

A Summer barbecue can unintentionally create air pollution. Try to limit the smoke nuisance for yourself and the neighbours to a minimum by opting for an electric barbecue set or one that runs on gas.

 Garden combustion is not recommended. Drop off your prunings at your local center for waste collection.

What can I do? Here you’ll find some statements concerning air pollution.
Guess whether they are true or false.
Answer the questions with right or wrong and proceed to the next step
More information
  • 1. Because of the air quality, I can no longer bike or run outdoors.
    True ! False
    Next question
  • 2. For short distances up to 5km it’s better to walk or bike.
    True ! False
    Next question
  • 3. Burning candles or incense is harmful to my health.
    True! False
    Next question
  • 4. It’s best if I don’t ventilate during peak hours.
    True! False
    Next question
  • 5. Even when used correctly a fireplace produces fumes which can harm your health.
    True! False
    Next question
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Alles weten?

Wat is fijn stof en ultrafijn stof?

Fijn stof is een verzamelnaam voor kleine, met het blote oog onzichtbare, deeltjes die in de lucht zweven zoals bijvoorbeeld roetdeeltjes. Deze deeltjes verschillen in oorsprong, grootte en samenstelling. Fijn stof is het onderdeel van luchtverontreiniging dat voor de meeste gezondheidseffecten zorgt. Hoe kleiner de deeltjes zijn, hoe dieper ze in de longen terecht komen en hoe meer schade ze kunnen aanrichten.

Fijn stof kan gedefinieerd worden als:

  • PM10: ‘grof’ fijn stof. Dit zijn deeltjes met een diameter kleiner dan 10 micrometer* (μm). Een haar is 5x zo dik.
  • PM2,5: ‘fijn’ fijn stof met een diameter kleiner dan 2,5 μm. PM2,5 bestaat vooral uit deeltjes die ontstaan bij verbrandingsprocessen, zoals roetdeeltjes bij dieselmotoren.
  • PM1: deeltjes met een diameter kleiner dan 1 μm.
  • P M0,1: ultrafijn stof. Dit zijn deeltjes met een diameter kleiner dan 0,1 μm.
  • *1 μm = 0,001 mm.

Wat is stikstofdioxide (NO2)?

Stikstofdioxide is het gas dat ontstaat bij verbranding. In de buitenlucht is het verkeer de belangrijkste bron van stikstofdioxide. Stikstofdioxide is een stof die makkelijk kan worden gemeten. Als de concentratie stikstofdioxide hoog is, dan is de concentratie van andere uitstoot van verkeer vaak ook hoog. Daarom wordt stikstofdioxide vaak gebruikt als maat voor de luchtvervuiling door het verkeer. Het is een zogenaamde verkeersindicator.

Wat is roet?

Roet bestaat uit kleine deeltjes die ontstaan bij verbrandingsprocessen. Het wordt soms ook zwarte rook of elementair koolstof genoemd. Roet behoort tot het fijn stof, maar kan ook afzonderlijk gemeten worden. Enerzijds omdat dit een betere maat is voor verkeersgerelateerde luchtverontreiniging, anderzijds omdat dit volgens de meest recente inzichten een betere indicator van gezondheidseffecten kan zijn.

Wat is ozon (O3)?

Ozon is een gas. Het wordt onder invloed van zonlicht gevormd uit stikstofoxiden en koolwaterstoffen. De concentratie ozon wordt sterk beïnvloed door het weer. Hoge concentraties ozon zien we vooral in de zomer op zonnige, windstille dagen met oostenwind. Met name ‘s middags en in de vroege avond. De hoeveelheid ozon loopt gedurende de dag op en is het hoogst tussen 12.00 en 20.00 uur. ’s Nachts wordt ozon op leefniveau weer grotendeels afgebroken.