French rail passengers to get temperature tests

French rail operator SNCF has announced a plan to begin offering temperature tests to passengers before they board trains.

French rail passengers to get temperature tests
Photo: AFP

Over the summer, SNCF is to test a programme of voluntary temperature tests for TGV passengers before they board trains, beginning on Tuesday at Gare de Lyon in Paris.

'Health kiosks' will be set up on the platforms and offer temperature screening via a thermal camera.

The testing is voluntary, each test takes four seconds and passenger data will not be stored.

The rail operator said one of the main purposes of the trial was to assess the practicalities of screening passengers before travel.

An SNCF spokesman said the idea was to “check under real conditions the fluidity of boarding a TGV Inoui train if a temperature control system is installed”.

If a patient records a temperature of above 38.5C, SNCF will be notified and will offer the passenger a new surgical mask, hand gel and a reminder about barrier gestures.

If the passenger wants, they can cancel or postpone their trip free of charge, but the company said they would not be banned from travelling.

At present the system is just a trial running in a few selected stations, and SNCF says its purpose is to allow them to be prepared if such controls become necessary in the future, particularly if the feared 'second wave' arrives in the autumn.

“The aim is to prepare in case such controls are requested by the government in the event of a second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic,” said Alain Krakovitch, Director of Voyages SNCF.

“It would be incomprehensible if we were not prepared in case of a new crisis.”

Passengers arriving at some French airports, including Charles de Gaulle, are also offered temperature checks and Covid-19 testing on a voluntary basis.

Face masks are compulsory on all French public transport services and in any enclosed public space, at risk of a €135 fine.

READ ALSO When and where do you need to wear a face mask in France?

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Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.