Air samples taken after reports of ‘mystery smell’ hanging over Paris

You might think France has got bigger concerns right now, but catching the headlines today is the mystery smell of sulphur hanging over Paris.

Air samples taken after reports of 'mystery smell' hanging over Paris
Photo: AFP

Yes, that's right – there is a weird smell in Paris and the surrounding area and no-one is quite sure what is causing it.

Now Paris does have its own very distinctive aromatic bouquet most of time – in which urine features quite prominently.

READ ALSO Perfume and pipi: The 10 smells that let you know you're in Paris

But on Sunday night, residents in the northern part of the city and its suburbs noticed a strange smell of sulphur hanging in the air.


Firefighters received a large volume of calls about the smell and by Monday morning reports were coming in from as far as Melun and Meaux, around 50km south and east of Paris respectively. There were even some calls from the Hauts-de-France and Pays-de-la-Loire areas.

The Paris Police Préfecture laboratory has taken air samples and is in the process of testing them, but in the meantime several solutions have been suggested, from a link to the heavy storms the city saw on Sunday night to a pollution leak or discharge from the sewage system.

Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris, commented on social media: “The smell of sulphur was recognisable but the concentration was very, very low. Several hypotheses are being considered; sewage wastewater or a cloud of sulphur dioxide arriving from abroad.”

But Airparif, the regional body that monitors air pollution in the Paris region, said the sulphur dioxide cloud theory was unlikely.

“There is little risk of imports and there would have been other reports in other regions,” Airparif engineer Pierre Pernot told Le Parisien.

“On our measurement network, no significant increases in air pollution were detected this Sunday.
“It's more likely to be a local source of odour, even though it affects a large part of the region. This is in line with the sewage pipes.”
The heavy rain in the city on Sunday night could have stirred up hidden gases from the bottom of rivers overflow areas in the city.
The results of the préfecture's tests are expected on Monday night.

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Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed

Striking airport workers have blocked part Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, with some flights already delayed by at least one hour.

Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed
Striking airport workers outside Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt | AFP

Last month, trade unions representing workers at the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) – the city’s Charles-de-Gaulle-Roissy and Orly airports – called for a strike between July 1st and July 5th in an ongoing dispute between French airport workers and bosses over contract renegotiations.

A second wave of protests are expected next week, after a strike notice was filed for July 9th.

Tensions mounted on Friday morning as some 400 protesters staged a raucous demonstration at CDG’s terminal 2E, which mostly deals with flights outside the Schengen zone, as police officers looked on.

At Orly airport, meanwhile, some 250 people demonstrated “outside”, while a small group was inside.

The dispute is over a long-term plan by ADP to bring in new work contracts for employees at the airports, which unions say will lower pay, job losses and a reduction in rights and bonuses for employees.

The strike is being jointly called by the CGT, CFE-CGE, Unsa, CFDT and FO unions, who said in a joint press release that the proposals will “definitively remove more than a month’s salary from all employees and force them to accept geographical mobility that will generate additional commuting time”.

Unions say that staff face dismissal if they do not sign the new contracts.

ADP said on Wednesday that it expected ‘slight delays for some flights but no cancellations’ to services – but it urged travellers to follow its social media operations for real-time updates.

On Thursday, the first day of action, 30 percent of flights were delayed between 15 minutes and half-an-hour.

ADP’s CEO Augustin de Romanet had said on Tuesday that ‘everything would be done to ensure no flight is cancelled’. 

ADP reported a loss of €1.17 billion in 2020. 

Stressing that discussions are continuing over the proposed new contracts, the CEO called for “an effort of solidarity, with a red line: no forced layoffs.”