Restrictions on driving and fireplaces after winter air pollution spike in France

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 Feb, 2023 Updated Tue 14 Feb 2023 12:10 CEST
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Smoke exiting from chimneys across Lyon in 2017 (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

Large parts of France have been impacted by a 'winter pollution episode' which has caused local authorities to impose restrictions on driving, burning waste and the use of wood-burning fireplaces.


Several parts of France were experiencing 'winter air pollution' episodes on Tuesday, February 14th, which has led to driving and speeding restrictions being imposed in some French cities.

France's national body for monitoring air quality, Prev'air, told Le Parisien that the winter pollution episode "could last until at least Thursday".

According to Franceinfo, the episode was likely caused by a combination of low temperatures coupled with a lack of wind and rain, which led to a build-up of fine particles in several French regions.


The federation of approved associations for monitoring air quality - Atmo France - told Franceinfo on Tuesday that six regions were on alert for low air quality: Normandy, Hauts-de-France, Grand-Est, New Aquitaine, Occitania and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. 

Within some regions, certain parts are more impacted than others - for instance, Strasbourg ranked as "Very Bad" on the air pollution indicator on Tuesday morning, and within Normandy, the Seine-Maritime area was more impacted by low-air quality than other parts of the region. 

You can see on the map below, by the organisation Atmo-France, which maps air quality across French cities, that several parts of eastern France were classified as "Bad" or "Very bad" for air quality on February 14th.

Screenshot from Map showing air pollution levels in France. (Picture credit: The Local)

As a result, some have put Crit'Air regulations in place. The Crit-Air system was introduced in 2017 and it assigns vehicles a number based on how much they pollute - from 0 (electric vehicles) to 5 (older diesel vehicles).

Keep in mind that all vehicles that are being driven in the towns and cities where the scheme applies need a Crit’Air sticker – not just French registered ones.

READ MORE: Driving in France: How the Crit’Air vehicle sticker system works

Crit'Air regulations in place for the winter pollution episode

Lyon - According to the Rhone government website, in the Lyon metropolitan area "only vehicles displaying an air quality certificate (Crit'Air sticker) of class zero emission engine, class 1, or class 2 are authorised to circulate within the Low Emission Zone (ZFE) of the Lyon metropolitan area.

According to local authorities, an "exemption to the traffic restriction is in place for private cars carrying at least three people, priority general interest vehicles, tourist cars with driver and cabs".

Ile-de-France - According to Le Parisien, the prefecture for the Paris region has recommended that high-polluting vehicles try to postpone travel. The prefecture also advised that roads where speed limits are typically capped between 90 and 130 km/h reduce their speed limits by 20km/h. It has also recommended against using wood for heating.

Upper and Lower Rhine - France Bleu Alsace indicated that air pollution on Tuesday was particularly high in Strasbourg, and that individuals were encouraged to prioritise shorter outings and reduce strenuous physical activity.

In the Upper Rhine département, a pollution alert has been issued at "Level Three" which means maximum speeds on roads will be reduced by 20km/hour.  pollution alert has been raised to a higher level in the Upper Rhine. After several days of too much presence of fine particles in the air, the prefecture triggers the level 3, which includes a reduction of the maximum speed allowed on the roads.


Toulon and the Var - The prefecture for the Var has required that vehicles with Crit'Air 4 and 5 stickers will not be allowed to drive within a perimetre near the Toulon. Specifically, the perimetre includes Toulon, La Seyne-sur-Mer, Six-Fours-les-Plages, Ollioules, La Garde and La Valette-du-Var.

Other recommendations and restrictions

Aside from driving, some localities, such as those in the Loire, Haut-Rhin, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, and Gironde have forbidden the burning of garden waste in the open air and the use of wood-burning fireplaces.

The organisation Atmo France has published several health-safety recommendations, which include airing out rooms for at least 10 minutes a day and continuing moderate physical activities, but avoiding strenuous outdoor ones (such as running). 



The Local 2023/02/14 12:10

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