Air pollution is behind the deaths of 48,000 people in France each year, and most of these deaths are preventable, a new study has found.
It’s no secret that pollution is a huge problem in the major cities in France, but it appears the problem runs a lot deeper, according to a new study by France’s national health agency.
Indeed, air pollution kills 48,000 people each year – or 9 percent of the total number of people who die each year.
The study focused on “PM2.5 particles”, which are particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometres or less, and which are known to 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).
Tuesday’s 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.
A 30-year-old living in an area with 2,000 to 100,000 people isn’t much better off, facing life a reduction of 10 months to their lives, on average.
Those living in rural France face a nine-month reduction, the study found.
The study noted that 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.
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.
France has been well aware of the poor pollution levels for years, but perhaps surprisingly, it’s not Paris that’s the worst. In May, a study from environmental group Robin des Bois (which literally translates as Robin Hood) 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 at 29.5µg/m3 and Paris at 27µg/m3. 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.
One study produced in 2014 claimed that the air quality in Paris was so bad that it was the equivalent of being in a room with eight smokers.