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Air pollution is responsible for 9% of mortality in France, according to a study made public this week. The only things that are more deadly to the French are tobacco and alcohol.
According to the study “Quantitative Health Impact Assessment” published this week by Public Health France, air pollution kills 48,000 people each year: 9% of the total number of people who die every year.
“The effects of air pollution result primarily from daily exposure to pollutants. Even at low levels, the fine particles have inflammatory effects and contribute to the development of chronic diseases”, explained Sylvia Medina, coordinator of the Air and Health program.
The study focused on "PM2.5 particles", particles of less than 2.5 micrometres that deeply penetrate the respiratory system, and can produce respiratory and cardiovascular illness. These particles are small enough to invade even the smallest airways of the human body.
Over 47 million French people are exposed to a level of these particles that is considered to be unsafe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
LIFE EXPECTANCY REDUCED
The study found that people aged 30 living in cities with over 100,000 residents can expect a reduction of 15 months to their life expectancy.
Meanwhile, a 30-year-old living in an area with 2,000 to 100,000 people isn't much better off, facing a reduction of 10 months to their lives, on average. Those living in rural France face a nine-month reduction.
“If pollution areas were reduced to match the levels in the five least polluted areas of France, around 34,000 lives could be saved each year and people could expect an extra nine months in life expectancy”, Medina explained.
ONLY TOBACCO AND ALCOHOL ARE WORSE
The main source of pollution, the study noted, came directly from humans and was typically in the form of industry, agriculture, transport and heating.
The only things that are more deadly to the French are tobacco at 78,000 deaths a year, and alcohol at 49,000 deaths a year, only a fraction more than the 48,000 related to air pollution.
A RECURRENT PROBLEM IN FRANCE
France has been well aware of the poor pollution levels for years. In May, a study from environmental group Robin des Bois found that Marseille had the highest levels of air pollution in the country.
With a 31.8µg/m3 concentration of fine particles, Marseille was worse than Lyon and Paris. All three cities exceeded the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended safe level.
Paris, meanwhile, has enforced driving bans in the past when smog levels get particularly bad, and these bans are now set to be rolled out "whenever the region and city authorities demand it", health officials said in November.
Such a ban was after Paris was briefly measured to have been the most polluted city on earth in March last year.