Paris, south-east France on high pollution alert

The air pollution alert in the Paris region and south-eastern France was raised to its second highest level this week as cold weather, low winds and high pressure combined to prevent the dispersal of emissions from traffic and industry.

Clouds fill the sky as the sun rises on the River Seine in the early morning light in Paris, 12 December 2013.
Clouds fill the sky as the sun rises on the River Seine in the early morning light in Paris, 12 December 2013. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Since Monday levels of fine particle pollution (PM10) - particules measuring under 10 microns - have risen over the alert level of 80 microgrammes per cubic metre.

For four days in a row high atmospheric pressure and a lack of wind are preventing the dispersal of

Paris under air pollution

polluting emissions that are accumulating in major French towns and cities.

The alert is due to stay in force at least until Sunday. 

According to a study in the medical journal Lancet released on Monday, Europeans with long-term exposure to particulate pollution from road traffic or industry run a higher risk of premature death.

The biggest source of concern was PM2.5, particles measuring under 2,5 microns that are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs, causing respiratory problems and may even cross into the bloodstream.

The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in October classified outdoor air pollution as a leading cause of cancer, placing it in the riskiest of four categories of sources.

And a worldwide study called the Global Burden of Disease found that outdoor air pollution was to blame for 3,2 million deaths per year.

In France air pollution has become a political issue three month ahead municipal elections in the country.

Socialist candidate for Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo accused her right-wing rival, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, of having been "the minister of diesel".

The tax policy of President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, in which Kosciusko-Morizet was environment minister, "favoured diesel" - a high-pollution fuel - Hidalgo claimed, "as a result, today, 70 per cent of the French of vehicles are diesel."

There are 40,000 premature death per year in France due to air pollution, Hidalgo said.

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