Paris bans half of all cars over air pollution fears

Level of 'pollution alert' likely to be exceeded tomorrow and Tuesday

Paris

Half the diesel and petrol cars in greater Paris will be banned from the road tomorrow in an attempt to reduce the health-threatening cloud of polluted air which has settled on northern France.

From 5am only odd-numbered cars will be allowed to drive in the Ile-de-France, unless they have electric or hybrid motors. Taxis, buses, emergency vehicles and cars carrying three people or more are exempted. All trucks are banned.

On Tuesday the ban will then apply to odd-numbered cars unless the weather changes. Foreign vehicles must obey the rules.   

Since last Wednesday, a run of warm, windless days and cold clear nights has clamped a lid of warm air over northern France. Minuscule particles of pollution from car exhausts, industry and agriculture have accumulated under that lid to dangerous levels.

The pollution is largely invisible and therefore not a “smog” or pea-souper fog of the kind which existed up to the 1970s. Paris enjoyed bright sunshine throughout the weekend.

There was, in fact, almost a carnival atmosphere. All underground and suburban trains and buses had been declared free to try to keep cars off the road. A light breeze reduced the pollution on Saturday and again yesterday.

Nonetheless, the level of official “pollution alert” – 80 microgrammes of tiny particles for every cubic metre of air – is likely to be exceeded again tomorrow and on Tuesday as the wind drops. The government decided on Saturday night to impose regulations on “alternate” use of cars which have not been triggered since 1997.

Motorists’ organisations complained  that this was an overeaction and would cause enormous hardship to commuters. The government said that it it had no choice.

The health minister Marisol Touraine said: “Pollution is a public health issue. We were obliged to take tough action.”

France is especially vulnerable to this kind of pollution because it is 60 per cent dependent on diesel cars. In the 1960s, French government and industry made a strategic decision that diesel engines were less polluting and would gradually supersede petrol.

The French car giants, Renault and Peugeot-Citroen invested heavily in diesel engines. Diesel fuel was taxed less heavily than petrol – and still is.

For nearly two decades France has been aware that this was a mistake. Diesel engines are more polluting, not less. Fumes from diesel cars, as well as industrial emissions and agricultural fertilisers, are blamed for increasing the micro-particles in the French atmosphere to dangerous levels.

Successive governments have shied away from increasing taxes on the diesel fuel which is used by two out of three motorists (and voters).

According to on study, there are 40,000 premature or unnecessary deaths in France each year because of the high level of atmospheric pollution. Other experts insist however that the scare has been exaggerated.

A French lung specialist, Professor Jean-Philippe Derenne, said: “In 50 years I have never come across anyone who died from air pollution. Between those people who smoke two packets of cigarettes a day and those people who walk in the streets of Paris, there is not the beginnings of a comparison.”

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test