Woman sues over Paris pollution


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A 56-year-old yoga instructor is set to take the French government to court over recent spikes in air pollution. The case may prove a trend setter with dozens more similar cases appearing on the horizon.

Recent years have seen a dramatic decrease in air quality in Paris

Recent years have seen a dramatic decrease in air quality in Paris
© Matou? Vin?/123RF

Clotilde Nonnez, a 56-year-old yoga teacher, who has lived in the French capital for 30 years, is suing the country's government over its failure to protect her against the harmful effects of air pollution. According to Ms. Nonnez, she has witnessed her health steadily deteriorate over the course of the last years, much more so following the spike in air pollution last December.

According to Ms. Nonnez she has led a healthy life, first as a dancer and later as a yoga instructor. However, recently she has experienced a significant deterioration in her health, suffering predominantly from respiratory problems which ranged from chronic asthma to pneumonia. In December 2016, when the city's pollution was at a 10 year high, Ms. Nonnez was hospitalised after suffering an acute pericarditis attack - an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart.

Speaking to the french website France Info Ms. Nonnez said "The doctor treating me says Paris air is so polluted that we're breathing rotten air. She has other patients like me, including children and babies too. My cardiologist says the same."

François Lafforgue, lawyer representing Ms. Nonnez, said that air pollution is responsible for approximately 48,000 deaths in France every year. "We are taking the state to task because we think the medical problems that pollution victims suffer are as a result of the authorities' lack of action in tackling air pollution," Mr. Lafforgue said in a statement to the French daily newspaper Le Monde.

Mr. Lafforgue is expected to be seeking 140,000Eur in compensation on behalf of his client.

Mr. Lafforgue went on to add that Ms. Nunnez' case is just the first one of many more to come. There are currently around 30 plaintive in Paris, Lille and Lyon preparing their cases before presenting them to court.

In December 2016 Paris air pollution reached a 10 year high

In December 2016 Paris air pollution reached a 10 year high
© Nightman1965/123RF

Paris has attempted to address its pollution problem for years now, with varying levels of success. In January 2016 the city's authorities have introduced fines for any vehicles not carrying a "Crit'Air" sticker - this is part of a larger scheme to promote vehicles with lower emissions. When air pollution levels get too high, the government introduces a temporary odd-even license plate scheme, which sees vehicles with either even or odd license plate numbers banned from entering the city limits. While this does cause certain levels of chaos the one silver lining for both Parisians and those visiting the capital is that during especially high pollution days all public transportation, including bicycles and electric car rental schemes, are free.

Parts of the capital have also been made into pedestrian-only zones, including a 3km stretch of the Seine's right bank. Vehicle restrictions have also been introduced along parts of the Canal Saint-Martin, the Marais, as well as two outlying parks all of which are blocked to cars during Sundays. Even Paris's most famous street, the Champs-Élysées, is turned into a car-free zone during one Sunday a month.

However, the problem of increasing levels of air pollution is by no means restricted to only Paris. According to a June 2016 study, carried out by France's public health authority, high levels of air pollution are responsible for an estimated 48,000 deaths in France alone every year. Once you start looking at the larger scale problem the numbers become even more worrying, with the State of Global Air report for 2017 putting the number of deaths in 2015 in the European Union at 257,500 and 88,400 in the United States. Globally, approximately 4,241,100 people are expected to have died prematurely due to poor air quality. Of those four-plus million deaths 1,108,100 were in China and 1,090,400 in India.

While Paris's, and indeed the world's, pollution problem is slowly but surely reaching critical point, it is time to start thinking of how we can reduce our own contributions to the problem. Whether opting to take public transport to get to work, recycling or choosing a more eco-friendly holiday trip this summer there are numerous things we can do to try and ease the problem.

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Posted on 25/06/2017 8 shares
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