Air pollution costs France €5bn and 3,000 deaths a year

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Cutting air pollution in French cities could save up to five billion Euros a year and prevent almost 3,000 deaths annually, according to a study released this week by the French Institute for Public Health (InVS).

After studying nine cities, including Paris, Lyon and Marseille, the InVS concluded this astonishing saving is within France’s reach – if air pollution stays within the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) maximum recommended levels.

You would think following WHO guidelines would be a given. Unfortunately, this is not the case in France or the UK.

The WHO recommendations are in fact twice as stringent as EU limits for particulate matter. While the UK Government claims to meet EU limits on particulate matter, it failed to meet the limits for NO2, as demonstrated by ClientEarth’s ongoing case against DEFRA.

And despite our failure to follow EU air quality directives, the UK Government is considering further dirtying London’s air by building a third runway at Heathrow.

With governments struggling to control air pollution, how can we promote the kind of economic growth that won’t make the problem worse?

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2 thoughts on “Air pollution costs France €5bn and 3,000 deaths a year

  1. tony

    The WHO guidelines should surely be used by the EU and the UK and England and if not then my town could adopt them and use them and would do well to do so.

    Air pollution in my town is on the increase and when I write to them, my MP, DEFRA etc I get quoted policies and assured that everything is OK when it clearly is not.

  2. Alan Andrews

    Hi Tony. The EU air quality directive is scheduled for review in 2013, which gives us an opportunity to align the limit values for PM10 with the WHO guidelines. However there is likely to be resistance from member states as this will inevitably come at a price. Your experience is quite typical – the reality rarely matches the rhetoric when it comes to air quality, with “air quality action plans” often being inadequate, not implemented or non-existent. What we need is a national system of low emission zones banning diesel vehicles from our towns and cities unless they are fitted with a particle trap. This will require considerable financial and logistical support from central government to local authorities, which at the moment seems highly unlikely.

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