On December 13th last year, Parisians had to squint their eyes to be able to make out the iron girders of the normally imposing Eiffel Tower amid an unusually thick blanket of grey fog.
The reason was a massive spike in pollution, resulting in the population breathing in about six million especially toxic fine particles per litre of air while walking the streets, or up to 15 times more than they usually do.
On March 28th, the situation in the French capital was almost as bad, and could be compared to a case of intense passive smoking, a report published by French daily Le Monde declared on Monday.
The 18-month study, carried out by air quality monitoring network Airparif, along with scientific research centre CNRS and the city of Paris, warned however that the December spike in pollution was as hazardous to a person’s health as being in “a 20-square-metre room with eight smokers”.
Since 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the fine particle matter as carcinogenic and say that it can cause asthma and heart diseases.
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.
The report concluded that the spikes in Paris’s pollution were mainly due to extremely heavy traffic, wood burning to heat homes and industrial fumes.
The March spike prompted the city of Paris to impose a temporary ban on cars as well as make public transport free for a whole weekend in the hope less people would get in their vehicles.
Similar steps were taken in Caen and Rouen.
See how bad the air in Paris was through this timelapse video
By Louise Nordstrom