Foul smell in Nice leads to vomiting, authorities baffled

Five hundred complaints have been made to the local authorities. Residents also report suffering headaches and muscle pains

Residents of the city are experiencing a wave of terrible smells each morning
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Residents of Nice have raised complaints over a foul smell that has caused hundreds to suffer from vomiting, headaches and muscle pains, leaving authorities scrambling to find the cause.

Complaints were first reported February 5 and seem to occur at the same time each morning.

People have compared it to gas, rotting eggs, or sulphur, but so far no one has been able to pinpoint the cause.

The odour reportedly comes from the north-east of the city, appearing between 05:00 and 09:00 in the morning, before spreading through the districts of Cimiez, Libération, through the old city, and then the port.

Local authorities have launched an investigation, and a resident association believes it may be associated with industrial production in the outskirts of the city.

Despite the ‘extremely unpleasant’ smell and the reports of nausea, health services say that so far nobody has been hospitalised.

Over 500 complaints to the mairie

The regional air quality observation unit Atmosud has received nearly 150 complaints over the smell since February 5, including more than 70 in one day.

Half of the complaints are associated with symptoms including headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and even difficulty breathing.

Residents say the smell appears at roughly the same time each morning, however some report smelling it later in the afternoon.

Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi said local authorities have received 500 complaints about the smell, and local members of the emergency response unit (SDIS) have been tasked with searching the origin.

Mr Estrosi said he has contacted the regional health service (ARS), as well as the Direction régionale de l’environnement, de l’aménagement et du logement (DREAL) asking them to launch their own investigations.

Atmosud has also enhanced its monitoring of the air quality in the areas concerned, looking for pollutants in the atmosphere including hydrogen sulphide (that produces the smell of rotten eggs).

However, it said that air quality tests conducted since the complaints began came back with ‘average’ readings. They are awaiting the results on air pollutants.

Read more: Cigarettes to be banned on Nice beaches from next summer

Could industry be the cause?

The precise timing and pattern of the smell could be a clue as to its origin, according to one local residents association.

The ‘Terre Bleue’ group said the reports of the presence and then sudden disappearance of the smell line up with the use of furnaces at a nearby industrial centre operated by Eiffage.

“This morning, people living near the plant told me that the furnace had been turned off, and strangely enough, the smells have almost disappeared,” said Terre Bleue founder Hélène Granouillac.

Health authorities in Nice confirmed to residents that the Eiffage plant had been mixing asphalt in their furnaces.

The city authorities did not comment on Eiffage itself, however the mayor said regional investigations will look into industrial activities close to the city, especially “in the Paillon Valley [where industry is concentrated], which fall under the state's policing powers.”

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