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Air pollution costs France ‘€100 billion a year’

AFP archive picture I In March, French authorities briefly forced half the cars off the roads of Paris during a spike in air pollution

Air pollution is an “economic aberration” that is costing France some €100 billion a year, according to a French Senate report published Wednesday.

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According to the study titled “Air pollution: the cost of inaction”, the effect of inhaling fine particles, largely blamed on pollution from cars, is hugely expensive for the French state in terms of treating illnesses, but far more costly to the nation’s businesses.

It pegged the direct cost to France's healthcare system at least €3 billion per year, with the remainder of the cost linked largely to time and productivity lost by businesses.

Outlays for non-health reasons like lower crop production and the cleaning of blackened buildings were estimated at €4.3 billion.

It estimated the financial impact of atmospheric pollution for health reasons alone at "between €68 billion and €97 billion" per year, ranging from treatment of aggravated conditions like asthma to battling forms of cancer caused by smog.

“The real cost is largely underestimated,” added Green Party Senator Leïla Aïchi, one of the members of the cross-party commission of inquiry which published the report.

Though the report noted past efforts to battle atmospheric pollution had lowered overall smog levels in France - especially around industrial sites - sources like ground transport and heating systems have made the problem more diffuse and present at higher levels in indoor air than before.

The study recommends a range of fiscal policies to encourage use of cleaner technologies, and measures to compliment incomplete or inefficient regulations already in place.

Pollution has become a major problem in Paris and several other French cities, whose air periodically becomes clogged with tiny floating particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and the blood system and can cause cancer.

The World Health Organization says fine particle air pollution is responsible for about 42,000 premature deaths in France each year.

In March, French authorities briefly forced half the cars off the roads of Paris under and even-and-odd licence plate scheme used during dangerously high smog episodes.

Following the report’s publication, Socialist Environment Minister Ségolène Royal said that “extremely stern” measures to combat air pollution would be announced “next week”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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