Map: Where are all the high risk chemical plants in France?

The toxic chemical factory that caught fire last week - leading to clouds of thick black smoke and a terrible smell that seems to be making people ill - is just one of nearly 1,200 such places in France.

Map: Where are all the high risk chemical plants in France?
The Lubrizol plant in Rouen is a Sevenso site. Photo: AFP

The Lubizol plant in Rouen was classed as a Seveso site because of the nature of the chemicals – mainly additives for oils and lubricants – that it produces.

So what is Seveso?

There are 1,171 Seveso sites in France, and they are factories or manufacturing plants that have been identified as risky by authorities because of their “association with certain hazardous industrial activities”.

It's named after the town of Seveso in Italy, which was the site of a devastating industrial accident in 1976 which saw high levels of the toxic chemical dioxin released into the air.

The disaster prompted a Europe-wide approach to identifying and classifying high-risk sites. 

The interactive map below has been put together by the Sciences et Avenir news website based on information from the French government. 

Are they dangerous?

There are two types of Seveso site: “seuil haut” (high threshold) or “seuil bas” (low threshold) depending on the size of the risk. Each type has its own safety measures (classification regulations, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures) to try to prevent accidents and plants must provide regularly updated risk assessments.

The aim is also  that everyone knows exactly what is made there, so if there is an incident like a fire or a leak, emergency services have all the information that they need.

Clearly, given what has happened in Rouen, it's not a foolproof system. Indeed the blaze was the third serious incident at Lubrizol in recent years, including a gas leak in 2013 that caused a noxious pong that reached as far as England.

Where are they?

As you would expect, the Seveso sites are mostly clustered in industrial areas so there is a high concentration of such sites in Marseille, Lille, Le Havre and the outskirts of Paris. Having said that though, there are sites around the country, even in smaller towns or more rural areas such as the Dordogne and Périgord.

You can click on the interactive map above to find out if there is one near you, or near a place you are thinking of moving to. You can also find out if it is “high” or “low” risk.

If there are plans to set up a new Seveso site near where you are already living, any resident has the right to bring an action before the courts if they feel their rights are being infringed.





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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to