Number of people affected by particulate matter

This indicator measures the proportion of the Flemish population exposed to particulate matter (PM2.5) on an annual and daily basis.

99.95% of the population

In 2022, 99.95% of the population in the Flemish Region lived in an area where the World Health Organization (WHO) annual advisory value for particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) was exceeded.

Viewed in the longer term, however, there is a clear decrease in the proportion of the population exposed to higher concentrations of particulate matter.

What do we see?

For PM2.5, the particulate matter with the greatest impact on health, it appears that virtually nobody in Flanders currently lives in an area that meets the WHO’s annual advisory value. This advisory value states that the concentration should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³). However, clear progress has been made since 2010, with a decrease in the percentage of the population exposed to higher concentrations of particulate matter. In 2010, 80% of the Flemish population still lived in areas with an annual average concentration above 18 µg/m³. In 2022, however, almost 90% of the population lives in an area with an annual average concentration below 12 µg/m³.

Although the number of days with PM2.5 concentrations above 15 µg/m³ is also decreasing, it appears that in 2022 all inhabitants of the Flemish Region still live in areas where the WHO daily advisory value is exceeded. This daily limit stands at a maximum of 3 days per year with a daily average higher than 15 µg/m³. Yet here too it appears that while in 2010 almost 90% of the population was exposed to more than 150 days of excess PM2.5 concentration, in 2022 the majority of the population (80%) will be exposed to less than 80 days of excess PM2.5 concentration.

Thus, over the past decades, there has been a clear improvement in PM2.5 concentration in Flanders, but it is not yet sufficient to meet the WHO advisory value.

What’s the aim?

In a circular economy, we strive not only to reduce the consumption of new materials but also to reduce the environmental impact of material consumption. In Flanders, most particulate matter emissions come from the heating of buildings. In particular, the use of biomass for heating, such as firewood, causes large emissions of particulate matter. By choosing more efficient heating systems, we can reduce these emissions and improve the impact on health.

What does this indicator measure?

This indicator measures how many people are exposed by emissions of particulate matter (PM2.5). The data comes from the Flanders Environment Agency (VMM).

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