Driving: Scent of Paris can have fatal results

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Air pollution in greater Paris is responsible for hundreds of unnecessary or premature deaths, according to a report published yesterday.

Up to 300 deaths from heart attacks could be averted each year if pollutants were halved. It also said the number who died from breathing problems in greater Paris almost tripled - to 25 a day - at times of peak pollution. Although this did not mean pollution was the only or direct cause of their deaths, it did suggest many pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases were being worsened by the poor air in and around the capital.

A parallel study published yesterday said 42 per cent of all emergency doctor's calls to children in the Paris area were for respiratory reasons.

Commenting on the main report, the Environment Minister, Dominique Voynet, said she planned to set up an inter-ministerial investigation of ways of reducing the risk from pollution, especially nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide.

New laws restricting traffic to cars with even or odd numbers on days of peak air danger were enforced by Ms Voynet for the first time in October.

But the minister, who is also the head of the main French Green party, said tougher controls were required.

She suggested new measures were needed to encourage a switch to public transport and raised again the possibility of a complete re-think of car- fuel taxes.