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Paris pollution: 'I'm having trouble breathing'

Joshua Melvin · 14 Mar 2014, 12:53

Published: 14 Mar 2014 12:53 GMT+01:00

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For most of the week Paris, and much of northern France, has been on maximum alert for air pollution levels, that have left the air so dirty that the iconic Eiffel Tower is barely visible from the hills surrounding the city. 

A mixture of warm, dry days and cool nights has been trapping fine pollution particles over the capital, as well as other French cities, leaving a cloudy build-up in the air that authorities admit poses a risk to people's health, especially anyone with respiratory conditions.

By way of response authorities in the capital have rolled out measures ranging from free public transport until Sunday night, to cutting speed limits on motorways and have also advised people to refrain from exercise.

But have Parisians really been affected by the smog, are they really concerned about air pollution and what do they want the government to do? The Local spoke to several inhabitants of the capital to find out.

As Mohamed Korbi (pictured above) strolled along Quai de la Loire he said he was feeling congested and had a sore throat he was sure was brought on by the air pollution.

“Yes, I’ve been feeling the pollution. I have asthma and I’ve been having trouble breathing. I have to use my inhaler,” the 62-year-old security guard told The Local. “I think the government ought to bring back the driving restrictions based on licence plate numbers. We haven’t done that for years and it works.”

He is referring to an air quality initiative from the 1990s which banned drivers from using their cars on certain days based on their licence plate number.  

Michelle Leclerc (pictured above), out to do some food shopping, agreed the official response to the pollution needs to be stepped up.

The 69-year-old retired fine art restorer said she's "not sitting at home worrying about it, but I think something must be done about the pollution in Paris. The government puts forward some initiatives, but they seem more interested in fighting with each other."

On a break from her job at a local school Christine Ouedraogo (pictured above), 40, complained of a congested throat and stinging eyes she has suffered from since the pollution levels began to rise last week.

“Nobody does anything about the environment anymore. We don’t talk about it,” she said. “People should be riding bikes, taking the Metro, taking the bus. But there is little incentive to do it. The trains are packed and you arrive late to work.”

An American expat out exercising said he looked at the pollution crisis as an opportunity to get the public's attention on the issue of environment.

“This is probably what it will take to change things,” Roberto Toledo (pictured above), a 33-year-old sociologist, said. “With climate change it seems so obvious to so many people, but we’re still waiting for officials to respond in an urgent manner.”

But not everyone agrees the spike in pollution will have much of an impact, with some guessing its influence will be quickly forgotten. 

British expat Eric Smith, 27, said: "No it's not that big of a deal. I mean if it rains tomorrow or if the winds pick up all this junk the air will just blow away.

"And then it's sort of over. I've lived in big cities all my life and polluted air is sadly one of the prices you pay. The problem is bigger than free Metro rides. It's modern life." 

“I’ve not been feeling it, but normally pollution makes me cough so much I have to immediately stop and get a bottle of water,” said Maguy Illouz (pictured above), 62. “But sadly I don’t think this will not change anything. I know for me it’s a question of laziness.”

If you want to see what Parisians are complaining about then watch this video below:

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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