Air Pollution

French NGO sues Paris metro operator over ‘critical’ pollution levels

Entrance to Paris metro near Le Louvre.
Entrance to Paris metro near Le Louvre. Getty Images

A French environmental NGO has filed a complaint against the Paris metro operator (RATP) accusing it of downplaying pollution risks for public transport users, who are unwittingly exposed to dangerous levels of harmful compounds.


The Respire ("Breathe") NGO filed its suit in Paris on Tuesday after its own analyses at several metro stations, as well as pollution readings by the state-owned RATP operator, had revealed alarming levels of particle pollution in recent years.

It alleged that the RATP was refusing to provide passengers with data showing the true pollution risks  "which constitutes aggravated deceit and causing unintentional injuries".

"We've taken this action in desperation," Respire's director Olivier Blond told France Info. "We've carried out studies, measured risks, we've tried everything [but] the RATP won't talk to us."

Some four million people use the metro system each day, and the RATP employs tens of thousands of drivers and other workers.

The concentration of fine particles, which can penetrate deep into a person's lungs, are compounded by limited ventilation as well as the braking action on the trains' metal wheels.

One of Respire's studies, published in January this year, showed pollution levels nearly 10 times the recommended limit in Alexandre Dumas station, 6 times at Trocadero and Place d'Italie.

"The RATP practices a sort of omerta on air pollution in the metro. It pretends there's no problem, but it needs to tell people the truth. Its denial is a key part of the problem," Blond said.

On the Paris Metro, people who used to be crammed in like sardines now give each other a wide berth and there are seats aplenty
On the Paris Metro, people who used to be crammed in like sardines now give each other a wide berth and there are seats aplenty AFP

The RATP contested the pollution levels cited by Respire, saying the NGO used portable, non-certified measuring equipment whose readings could not be compared with its own.

In a statement on Tuesday it said its monitoring of air quality was "very scrupulous and altogether transparent".

It also insisted that since 2012 it had invested more than 85 million euros in ventilation systems and experimenting with air treatment technologies as well as "electronic braking" that would release fewer fine particles as trains enter stations.

(with AFP)



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