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Prosecutors probe Paris smog spike

Investigation launched after criminal complaints that were filed at the height of March's air pollution crisis

PROSECUTORS in Paris have opened an investigation into pollution levels in the French capital following criminal complaints from two organisations.

The complaint was filed by green group Ecologie Sans Frontiere and Breathe on March 12 when air pollution spiked to dangerous levels for five consecutive days in Paris.

In total, more than 30 departments across France faced maximum-level pollution alerts, with authorities in some cities offering free public transport during the crisis.

Meanwhile, authorities in Paris imposed restrictions on motorists based on their vehicle registrations for the first time since 1997.

The smog over the French capital was the result of a string of warm days and cold nights. Air pollution in the city between March 12 and March 17 was at its worst level since 2007.

Investigators will first have to ensure there is a criminal case to answer, and decide who could be charged.

Ecologie Sans Frontiere called its complaint a “symbolic step” which occurred when maximum thresholds for air pollution were exceeded in several cities.

They said investigators may eventually be able to prosecute car manufacturers or certain government offices.

News of the investigation comes on the day the World Health Organisation revealed that the deaths of 7 million people worldwide were directly caused by air pollution in 2012.

A previous study, four years earlier, said that 3.2 million had died from the effects of air pollution.

Pollution levels exceeded European limits, which may mean France could face fines of tens of millions of euros.

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