Dirty air on Paris Metro poses health risk to staff

The air in Paris Metro stations is so dirty that staff who work on the underground network are actually at risk of suffering health problems, a new report has concluded.

Dirty air on Paris Metro poses health risk to staff
THe air on the Paris Metro poses health risk to staff. Photo: AFP

If you’ve ever had to hold your breath on the Paris Metro, then spare a thought for the people who have to spend much of their day working on the network.

A recent report on the air in the Paris Metro system said it was four times worse than the notoriously smoggy Péripherique ring road and perhaps unsurprisingly the latest study claims it poses a health risk to staff.

Metro employees and those working on underground train stations are risking their health while at work, the French health watchdog ANSES concluded.

“There exists respiratory and cardiovascular health risks associated with chronic exposure to fine particles in the air in underground rail enclosures,” the report said.

The source of the dirty air is fine particles of metal than come from the rolling stock and their toxicity is “poorly documented”, the report writes.

Fumes from diesel engines add to the pollution.

As a result of the dangers the health agency has called for “preventative measures” to reduce the exposure of employees to the fine particles.

Those workers most at risk are Metro and train drivers, those who work on safety and maintenance or assistance to passengers, and those working in shops in the underground stations.

Earlier this year pollution experts for French channel BFM TV said They found that the concentration of particulates with a diameter of less than 10 microns — so-called PM10 — was at an average of 75 microgrammes per cubic metre (mcg/m3) inside the Metro. The figure soared above 200 during peak hours.
The safe limit for PM10 is set at 80 microgrammes per cubic metre (mcg/m3), with Paris's alert level fixed at 50 mcg/m3.
Out at the ringroad peripherique, meanwhile, the air was considerably cleaner despite the traffic – recorded to be 20mcg/m3.

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Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire

Paris authorities have been accused of failing to safeguard the health of people living near Notre-Dame cathedral due to lead pollution from a devastating fire two years ago.

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire
A complaint has been lodged over lead pollution in Paris from the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral Photo: Fabien Barrau | AFP

Local families along with the Paris branch of the CGT trade union and the anti-pollution association Henri Pezerat, have filed the legal complaint alleging city and public health authorities endangered lives.

“Despite the scale of the fire and knowledge about the risk of pollution and contamination… no precaution in particular was taken by the authorities involved for more than three months after the fire,” according to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP.

It says 400 tonnes of lead from the roof of the Gothic masterpiece melted or were dispersed as microparticles over the French capital during the blaze on April 15, 2019.

“Children (in crèches and schools), neighbours and workers have clearly been exposed to the risk of lead” pollution, the complaint adds. “These facts amount to the crime of endangering the lives of others.”

The square in front of the cathedral was closed again to the public in May this year after tests revealed high concentrations of toxic lead particles.

Several months after the fire, city authorities ordered a deep-clean of schools in the area, while children and pregnant women were urged to have blood tests.

The complaint says the city withheld information from school directors and failed to act promptly. It also targets the police department, the culture ministry and regional health authorities.

The efforts of firefighters ensured the great medieval edifice survived the fire despite the collapse of the spire and much of the roof being destroyed.

But the lead risks delayed work on clearing debris and launching the restoration effort for the landmark, which President Emmanuel Macron wants open for visitors in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, but they have said an accident, possibly caused by a short circuit or discarded cigarette butt, remains the most likely explanation.