Paris air 'like passive smoking’

Alarming report says each breath takes in 100,000 fine particles – with the vast majority being dangerous nanoparticles

25 November 2014

AIR pollution in Paris is so bad at times it is the same as sitting in a room full of smokers – where each breath takes in 100,000 fine particles from diesel cars, household chimneys and industry.

And a report has said that on December 13 last year - when residents could barely make out the Eiffel Tower - the city was blanketed with a peak of pollution that was 30 times higher than normal, with six million fine particle carcinogens in each litre of air, like passive smoking in a room with eight smokers.

This year, in March, air pollution in Paris matched that in Peking, long rated one of the world’s most polluted cities, and the French government introduced restrictions allowing only even-numbered vehicles to enter the city. Speeds on the Péripherique were cut and Paris made public transport and its Autolib’ and Velib’ car and bike-sharing schemes free. The measures saw traffic in the city halved.

Air pollution kills around two million people a year and an alarming report by research centre CNRS and Paris mairie found that traditional measurements of pollution – done at ground level and which concentrated on “large” PM10 and PM2.5 particles – had not measured the very much larger volume of nanoparticles of less than 0.1micrometre.

Jean-Baptiste Renard of the CNRS said that there were 200 times as many fine particles between 0.2 and 1µm than between 1 and 10µm.

Both types are carcinogenic and the World Health Organization highlights the danger from particles of PM2.5 and smaller as being particularly deadly as they penetrate deeper into the lungs.

A report in The Lancet in 2013 said that for every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3) in PM10, lung cancer rose 22% - and by 36% for PM2.5s.

Concentrations of PM10 particles are set by European law to be less than 50µg/m3 over a maximum of 35 days and to be less than 40µg/m3 over the year. France has already been accused in the European Court of violating these norms.

Paris assistant mayor Christophe Najdovski, of the ecology EELV party, says he will put forward a new anti-pollution plan in the new year. The city also introduces a ban on all open fires from January 1, 2015.
Log fire - photo: Stéphane Moussie CC BY 2.0
Previous articles
Paris on alert as pollution rises
Air pollution on rise again
Prosecutors probe Paris smog spike
No extension for Paris vehicle ban

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