Exposure to particulate matter (i52)

In 2022, the population weighted average concentration of particulate matter in Belgium was 9,6 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must be reduced to 5. This objective will not be reached by continuing the trend since 2000 (data available in November 2023). Exposure to particulate matter is therefore developing unfavourably.

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Exposure to particulate matter - Belgium - trend assessment

micrograms PM2.5 per cubic metre, population weighted average

trend and extrapolation (November 2023)--21.316.913.
objective 20305.

IRCEL/CELINE (2023), direct communication (09/10/2023).

Exposure to particulate matter - Belgium and international comparison

micrograms PM2.5 per cubic metre, population weighted average

//: Average Growth Rates

European environment Agency (2023), Air Quality Health Risk Assessments (Countries), https://discomap.eea.europa.eu/App/AQViewer/index.html?fqn=Airquality_Dissem.hra.countries_sel&EUCountries=Yes&ScenarioDescription=WHO_2021_AQG_Scen_Base&AirPollutant=PM2.5&UrbanisationDegree=All%20Areas%20(incl.unclassified)&Year=2020 (consulted on 28/09/2023).

Exposure to particulate matter by region - Belgium

micrograms PM2.5 per cubic metre, population weighted average

Brussels-Capital Region20.119.314.113.19.410.3-3.9-4.8
Flemish Region21.218.513.413.110.411.0-3.8-3.4
Walloon Region17.213.510.
//: Average Growth Rates

IRCEL/CELINE (2023), direct communication (09/10/2023).

Definition: the exposure to particulate matter (PM2,5) concerns the concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5µm, expressed in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³). Those particles mainly come from combustion processes (heating of buildings, motors etc.) and in certain industrial and agricultural activities. Due to the higher concentration of this type of activities in urban areas, the concentrations are measured there in greater numbers, but measurements are also taken in rural areas. In order to calculate this indicator, the measured concentrations are adjusted based on the population. The Belgian data (including regional) are compiled by the Interregional Cell for the Environment (www.irceline.be) which performs a weighting of the observations from the measuring stations. For EU countries, the European Environment Agency (EEA) collects these data and uses its own weightings, which are slightly different from those used by the Interregional Environment Cell.

Goal: the exposure to particulate matter must not exceed a maximum level of 5µg/m³ (annual average concentration).

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 11.6: “By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development contains objective 35: “Emissions of pollutants, such as (...) particulate matter, (...) will be significantly reduced and air (indoor and outdoor), water and soil pollution will no longer have a significant - direct or indirect - impact, neither on health nor on the environment” (Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

Finally, in its 2021 WHO global air quality guideline, the World Health Organisation (WHO) proposes a maximum level of 5μg/m³ for annual average PM2.5 concentrations.

International comparison: between 2005 and 2020, the average concentrations observed in Belgium (9,4 µg/m³ in 2020 following the EEA) reach similar levels as in the EU27 (11,2 µg/m³). When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with average performances in 2020 and performs better than the European average. In that year, Finland ranked first with 4.4 µg/m³ and Bulgaria last with 17.0 µg/m³.

UN indicator: the selected indicator corresponds to 11.6.2 - Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted).


  • General

    • SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.

    • Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.

    • UN Sustainable Development: https://sdgs.un.org/ (consulted on 18/01/2023).

    • UN Sustainable Development Goal indicators website: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/ (consulted on 18/01/2023).
  • Specific

More information is available in French and Dutch.