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POLLUTION

Where in France has the cleanest and dirtiest air?

Paris gets a bad reputation for its dirty air, but it’s far from being the smoggiest city in France. That unwanted award goes to one of its suburbs.

Where in France has the cleanest and dirtiest air?
Photo: AFP

If you care about the air, don’t go and live in Pantin.

The suburb of Paris, just to the north east of the city has been named and shamed as having the most polluted air in all of France, according to a report by the World Health Organisation.

Pantin was found to have a level of 22 micrograms of fine particles (PM 2.5)  – basically the particles of air that are the most dangerous to a person’s health – per cubic metre of air on average throughout the year.

The WHO has set an upper limit of 10 micrograms of dirty air particles that if achieved would help dramatically cut the number of deaths caused by pollution.

Pantin, highlighted in red to the north east of Paris. Photo: GoogleMaps

So Pantin has some work to do. But the fact it is next to the ever-clogged périphérique ring road around Paris  – dubbed the most polluted place in France – doesn’t help, nor does the fact that it’s one of the most densely populated towns in France and has major train lines running through it.

But to make the good folk of Pantin feel a little less wheezy the WHO report concluded that some 92 percent of the world’s population are living in areas where air pollution levels are too high.

And it’s not the only place in France that needs to improve air quality.

Paris, where measures such as free public transport and car bans have been introduced during pollution spikes, records an average of 18 micrograms of pollutant particles per year.

In Marseille it was 17, Lyon, 14, Toulouse, 12, Nice, 14, Strasbourg 16 and Nantes, 13.

And the least polluted place in France?

Well that award goes to the village of Roisey, in the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region, where only 4 micrograms of pollutant particles were recorded per year.

The fact that Roisey is in the Pilat regional park must help boost its air quality.

Air pollution is believed to be the main cause of some 48,000 deaths each year in France.

Over 47 million French people are exposed to a level of these particles that is considered to be unsafe by the WHO.

A previous study by the WHO people aged 30 living in cities with over 100,000 residents can expect a reduction of 15 months to their life expectancy. 

Those living in rural France face a nine-month reduction, the study found. 

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POLLUTION

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.

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