Orange pollution alert in Paris

Dangerous levels of fine particles in the air continue to pose health risks in the capital

28 March 2012

AIR pollution in the capital continues to be at dangerous levels and air monitoring body Afif has put Paris on orange alert today.

This is the fifth day of warnings of dangerous levels in Ile-de-France.

The main concern is high levels of fine particles, called PM10, which can become lodged in people’s lungs. In towns these are mainly caused by traffic and drivers are being asked to reduce speeds.

Children and people with fragile health are also advised to avoid too much exertion (which causes particles to be sucked more deeply into the lungs).

The Ecology Ministry says such air pollution causes an estimated 42,000 premature deaths each year.

PM10s are produced by agriculture, industry and traffic. European legislation says PM10s should not exceed certain levels more than 35 days a year – Paris has already clocked up 25.

Though levels in France dropped overall from 1990 to 2008 the government promised in 2010 to reduce levels by 30% by 2015.

Measures planned include trialing bans of the most polluting cars in eight city centres, from next year. Measures have also been passed banning burning of green waste or encouraging people to install enclosed fireplaces.

The director of air quality laboratory LCSQA, Frédéric Bouvier, said France is “average” in Europe for air pollution, but he added other countries had been quicker off the mark with policies to combat it. For example, zones where polluting cars are banned already exist in 200 European cities.

A year ago the European Court started action against France for not taking strong enough action.

The fact diesel cars are more popular in France than anywhere else in Europe is thought to contribute to the problem. They emit finer particles than petrol cars.

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