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CLIMATE CRISIS

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

After the second hottest summer ever recorded in France - after 2003 - French health authorities have released data on excess deaths recorded over the season.

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record
Taken in Savenay, outside Nantes, on July 18, 2022 shows a pharmacy sign displaying the temperature of 41°C, as a heatwave hits France. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP)

In a press release published by Santé publique France on Monday evening, the health authority noted that “multiple climatic phenomena” occurred during the summer, calling it the “hottest since 1900” with a “significant health impact.”

The data covers June to September and lists 10,420 excess deaths – that is deaths in excess of the average for the summer season.

Of those 2,816 deaths occurred during the three periods when the country was officially on heatwave alert – a 16.7 percent increase when compared to non-heatwave periods during the summer.

Experts also believe that many of the remaining 7,604 excess deaths were heat related, even if they occurred during periods when there was no heatwave warning in place.

“A part of this excess of summer mortality is probably due to the population being exposed to strong heat, even if temperatures did not reach the thresholds for heatwave alerts,” noted the report.

As expected, the worst affected were the elderly. Of the 2,816 excess deaths recorded during the three heatwave episodes this summer, 2,272 were among people aged 75 and over, i.e. nearly 80 percent of excess deaths during heatwaves.

However, all age groups were represented, as shown in the figures below. Most of the deaths across age groups occurred during the second heatwave, which was the “most intense” in terms of heat.

The impact of the pandemic

The pandemic also likely played a role in heat-related deaths. Specifically, 894 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded in hospitals and medical establishments during the heatwave episodes.

The head of Santé publique France’s “Quality of Living and Population Health” unit, Guillaume Boulanger, explained in a press conference that “Covid-19 could have increased vulnerability to heat for some people, and exposure to the heat may have worsened the condition of some patients affected by the virus.”

The excess mortality in relation to high temperatures is France’s “highest since 2003,” a year where a three-week heatwave resulted in over 15,000 deaths.

It was this heatwave, and the shock that so many elderly people were found dead in their own homes, that led to cities creating the heatwave plans that are in use today.

In addition to excess mortality, there was also a rise in non-fatal health complications across the country. Throughout the entire summer, more than 17,000 emergency room visits and 3,000 SOS Médecins consultations were recorded for hyperthermia, dehydration and hyponametria (salt deficiency resulting from dehydration).

Additionally, during heatwave periods, the number of emergency room visits and SOS Médecins consultations were two to three times higher than outside of heatwave periods.

The three heatwaves were described in the report as “intense and noteworthy.” The first occurred in June, at an unusually early time for the summer season, the second in July, which was widespread geographically and impacted over two-thirds of French population, and the third occurred in August.  

Geography

In terms of the parts of France that were most impacted, four regions – mostly concentrated in France’s south – stand out with particularly high levels of excess mortality.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur recorded the majority of the country’s excess national deaths during the heatwaves.

However, when looking at the deaths in proportion to the number of inhabitants, Brittany, a region typically known for cooler summer temperatures, saw a high proportion. The Paris region and Grand Est also saw higher per-population proportions of excess deaths.

The report joins other literature on the topic of excess deaths in Europe as a result of climatic events. The European Environment Agency recently released a study showing that without adaptation measures, if global warming were to reach 3C by 2100, “90,000 Europeans could die from heatwaves each year.”

Member comments

  1. There’s an additional factor not mentioned here to account for the excess deaths. However, that explanation runs counter to what is acceptable to say here.

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ENVIRONMENT

Free worms: How to start composting in France

Wondering how you can start composting in France? Here is what you need to know about the environmentally-friendly way of getting rid of your food waste.

Free worms: How to start composting in France

Composting is about to get a lot more accessible in France, as local authorities will be required to offer households means of sorting biodegradable waste at source.

Starting in January 2024, all local authorities across the country will need to give households a way to compost – whether that be via separate bins for collection, individual or collective composting.

READ MORE: All French households will have to be offered composting bin

But many local authorities already do this, and even if they don’t there’s no need to wait until January 2024 to recycle your kitchen scraps, old flowers and other bio-waste.

Public composting sites

If you’re looking for a shared or public composting site, the first step you can take is to look at the interactive map created by Zero Waste France. You can find it HERE, where you can simply put in your address to see what options are available close to you.

Another option would be to look at the website for your local Mairie (Town Hall) to search for the nearest “composteur de quartier” (neighbourhood composting bin). For those living in the Greater Lyon area, you can consult the interactive map and address log of shared composting bins HERE

In Paris, those looking to compost can use the city’s Town Hall website to see the composting locations listed out by arrondissement and address. If you scroll to the middle of the page then click on your arrondissement number, you will get a list of nearby options.

A screenshot of the dropdown list of composting options in Paris

You will also need to check 

For those living in cities, you might consider joining a community garden if you are looking to use your composting to grow fruits and vegetables, or if you are simply looking for an alternative place to get rid of your compost. To join a community garden (jardin partagé) you must contact the association managing it. In larger cities, like Paris, there might be a waitlist. You can find more information HERE.

Compost individually

It’s easy to get a compost bin for your kitchen to collect your food and biodegradable waste together, but if you actually want to create compost that will go straight onto your garden then you will probably need the help of some worms.

Depending on where you live in France, you might be eligible for a free or reduced price individual worm composting bin. For those living in Paris, you can get a free worm composting bin during one of the city’s distribution campaigns, which are usually announced on the Town Hall’s website. You will also need to attend a short, 45-minute training session to learn how to use the worm composting bin.  

In other parts of France, like the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area you can order a €10 wooden composter or an individual worm composter on the local authority’s website, found HERE.

If you live in the Greater Lyon area, you can apply for your local town hall to send you composting materials for free by going on THIS website and by providing documents, such as a piece of identification, proof of address, and a photo of your garden.

Many local authorities have similar schemes, so check the situation on a lombricomposteur (worm-composter) with your local mairie.

Where can I get compost for my garden?

If you are looking to get compost, the first place you might consider would be your local landfill or waste disposal centre (déchetterie). Some communes will give away free bags of compost, and others have deals set up where you can bring in your own biodegradable items in exchange for getting a bag of compost.

What are you allowed to compost in France? 

While local authorities might have differing recommendations, on a general level it is recommended that you compost: Kitchen waste – peelings, coffee grounds, paper filters, vegetable tops, and spoiled fruits and vegetables; Garden waste – grass clippings, leaves, and dead flowers; and some household waste – house plants, tissues, paper towels, newspaper, wood ashes, and sawdust.

There are also some things that you might be able to compost, but you should take some additional steps, like hard waste that cannot degrade easily (cabbage cores, bones, branches, fruit pits, egg shells), which should be crushed down beforehand. 

Some localities have specific rules regarding composting meat. In Paris, residents are advised against composting meat and fish, as they can attract rodents.

You should always avoid composting any non-biodegradable synthetic products, like glass, metals, plastics, or synthetic cleaner bags. Many types of diapers (nappies) are not biodegradable, so consider this before attempting to compost them. Any type of wood that has been painted or chemically treated should not be composted, and no chemical products (such as oil) should be composted.

If you are using a vermicomposter (worm composter) should also avoid putting in citrus fruits, garlic and onions.

As for the city of Paris, local authorities recommend not composting dairy products (especially cheese), bread, and meat. 

Why should I consider composting?

There are many benefits to composting. As an individual, composting might save you money by allowing you to avoid buying synthetic fertilisers.

Recycling organic waste also helps to limit pollution. When biodegradable waste is collected with other types of waste and put into landfills, it produces toxic emissions. Composting helps to reduce the toxic gases that are sent into the atmosphere, and in turn reduces pollution.

It also makes us less dependent on landfills and helps to make soil richer and healthier, which aids in water retention. 

Helpful vocabulary

To compost – Composter

A communal composting bin – un composteur collectif

Worm composter or vermicomposter – lombricomposteur

Landfill/ Waste disposal centre – Déchetterie

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