• France's news in English
 

Dirty air prompts free public transport in Paris

Joshua Melvin · 13 Mar 2014, 18:08

Published: 13 Mar 2014 18:08 GMT+01:00

Authorities are hoping free rides on Paris's massive public transport network this weekend will be enough to entice drivers to get out of their cars and ease the levels of air pollution plaguing the region.

The French capital has been under maximum pollution alert for several days, as have many other regions across the country.

Jean-Paul Huchon, head of the organisation that oversees transport in Paris and neighbouring areas, said on Thursday that transport would be free from Friday morning to Sunday evening due to the "significant risks to the health of residents." 

Overall, more than 30 departments in France were hit by maximum level pollution alerts, prompting Ecology Minister Philippe Martin to say air quality was "an emergency and a priority for the government". In parts of Normandy air pollution levels are already at a record high, according to one expert.

SEE ALSO: Paris pollution: What steps to take to breathe easy

In the cities of Caen and Rouen public transport will be free over the next three days. 

In the city of Reims in eastern France, public transport will be free on just Friday as is the case in Grenoble in the Alps, although it may be extended for the following days.

Authorities in the capital reacted by announcing that the Velib' bike sharing scheme and its car version Autolib' would be free from Thursday onwards.

Thursday was the third straight day that the Parisian region was under its maximum alert for air quality.

A lack of wind during the anticyclonic period and cold nights followed by balmy days triggered the poor quality air. Exhaust from cars, heating in buildings and factory emissions were also contributing to the problem.

In general, the smaller and lighter a particle is the longer it stays in the atmosphere and can remain suspended for weeks.

Particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter are also the most dangerous to health as they can pierce the lungs and the blood system. Environmental campaigners say the rise in air pollution is putting people's lives in danger because it can also lead to asthma, allergies and other respiratory ailments. They have lodged a legal complaint, forcing judges to investigate the causes of the pollution.

To see how bad pollution in Paris is, watch this speeded up video of the air around the Eiffel Tower.

Ecology without Borders (Écologie sans Frontière), Breath (Respire) and Unity for the Planet (Rassemblement pour la Planète) have lodged a legal complaint in Paris, on the grounds that pollution levels are endangering people’s lives.

“We are sick of this air pollution,” Nadir Saifi, spokesman of Ecology with Borders told France Info. As soon as the weather is good, and as soon as it's dry in winter you have these peaks in pollution and the emergency wards at hospitals fill up. Slogans and small demonstrations are no longer enough.”

Particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns were reported by regional air monitoring centres various parts of France, including Paris.

Authorities in the capital reacted by announcing that the Velib' bike sharing scheme and its car version Autolib' would be free from Thursday.

The levels of PM 10 - or small particles which easily penetrate the lungs - were reported at 50 micrograms per cubic metre in several areas such as Brittany, the Loire region and parts of wine-producing Burgundy.

Story continues below…

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution has become a major environmental health problem, as it increases risks of getting respiratory and heart diseases.

"The most recent data indicate that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution," it said in an October report.

The organisation has since classified outdoor air pollution as "carcinogenic to humans".

For more news from France, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Video row has ruined trade': Paris attacks restaurant owner
Flowers in tribute to the November 13th attack victims are displayed in front of the "Casa Nostra" restaurant. Photo: Patrick Kovarik

'Video row has ruined trade': Paris attacks restaurant owner
41 minutes ago

A Paris restaurant hit in last November’s terror attacks officially reopened Friday - with the owner complaining business had been ruined by claims he sold footage of the onslaught to a British newspaper.

France kicks off Six Nations amid tight security
France's rugby union team captain Guilhem Guirado. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

France kicks off Six Nations amid tight security
4 hours ago

France and Italy kick-off the Six Nations on Saturday under a massive security operation as international sport returns to Paris's Stade de France for the first time since suicide bombers targeted the city on November 13.

First French 'neutral gender' defends 'being genderless'
Photo: Whitecatsg/Flickr

First French 'neutral gender' defends 'being genderless'
20 hours ago

The first French person to be given the designation "neutral gender" appeared in court on Friday to testify in an appeal of the decision.

And the 'Liar of the year' award goes to Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen. Photo: AFP

And the 'Liar of the year' award goes to Marine Le Pen
21 hours ago

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has been voted as the "biggest liar" of 2015. But why?

Only in France - pig's entrails sold in vending machines
Photo: Kent Wang/ FLickr

Only in France - pig's entrails sold in vending machines
22 hours ago

As Paris gets its first automatic meat dispenser it seems "Only in France" could you buy bread, cheese, steak and pig's intestines from 24-hour street vending machines.

Calais: UN slams 'appalling' conditions for migrant kids
Children in the Jungle camp in Calais. Photo: AFP

Calais: UN slams 'appalling' conditions for migrant kids
1 day ago

This time it's the United Nations that has blasted France for the conditions at Calais.

Americans in France
Where do Americans choose to live (or avoid) in France?
Photo: AFP

Where do Americans choose to live (or avoid) in France?
1 day ago

Can you guess which region in France only 55 Americans call home?

How Paris plans to become a 'model' of cleanliness - really
The Canal Saint Martin area of Paris that has been plagued by litter problems. Photo: AFP

How Paris plans to become a 'model' of cleanliness - really
1 day ago

Yes, you read that right.

State of Emergency
Emergency powers 'helped foil a terror attack': French PM
Photo: AFP

Emergency powers 'helped foil a terror attack': French PM
1 day ago

The French PM defended the ongoing state of emergency in France on Friday claiming that the sweeping powers helped them foil a terror attack.

Airbnb hands over €1.2 million in tourist tax to Paris coffers
Photo: AFP

Airbnb hands over €1.2 million in tourist tax to Paris coffers
1 day ago

Airbnb moves to appease critics by handing over €1.2 million in tourist taxes to Paris City Hall.

Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
Travel
Wait... that's not snow! Check out France's most unique ski slope
Culture
Don't panic, France isn't bidding a final adieu to the circumflex
Culture
VIDEO: UK group performs Shakespeare for Calais refugees
National
France cuts more red tape: E.G. No license needed to collect horse's sperm
Gallery
How France could really simplify the French language (for us learners)
Culture
Say good bye to 'oignon': How 2,400 French words will get new spellings
Sport
US calls on French help to prevent 'Paris-style' attack at Super Bowl
Culture
Betty Blue star Béatrice Dalle says she ate a dead man's ear (while on acid)
Analysis & Opinion
It's no surprise the French are losing faith in Hollande's war on terror
Culture
What's on: Here are 10 great things to do in France in February
Culture
The 300-metre monument Paris could have had instead of the Eiffel Tower
How a drunken stunt with a mattress on an Alps ski slope ended in tragedy
Culture
Chandeleur - The day the French get superstitious
Culture
Did fear of losing success drive top French chef to commit suicide?
See what changes in France from February 1st
Culture
'S**t! B**lox!'- Ramsay sees Versailles restaurant lose star
Lifestyle
Le Chandeleur: Why do the French eat crêpes on February 2nd?
Culture
Mad Max director to head Cannes Film Festival jury
National
'And what if your daughter married a Muslim?' - Survey shocks France
Features
Are these really 'the only streets in Paris' you need to go to?
Culture
Is the Michelin guide worth the paper it's written on?
Society
VIDEO: See the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris in 1926
Society
Is this the simple solution for Brits stressed out by driving in France?
3,534
jobs available