Woman sues France for failing to protect her from air pollution

A woman from Paris is suing the French state for neglecting to protect her from the effects of air pollution, claiming that she has seen her health decline in the past 30 years that she has lived in the French capital city.

The plaintiff, 56-year old Clotilde Nonnez, said her health became worse than ever last December, around the time that pollution in Paris hit a record high, BBC.com reported. Nonnez said that she follows a generally healthy lifestyle, working initially as a dancer and then as a yoga teacher. Despite this, she has suffered from respiratory problems, including chronic asthma and pneumonia.

Nonnez’s health took a turn for the worse in December, when she suffered an acute pericarditis attack as a result of her existing lung condition.

“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,” Nonnez was quoted as saying in the report.

Her lawyer, Francois Lafforgue said that air pollution is responsible for about 48,000 deaths in France every year. The problem, he said, is a result of the French government’s inaction in dealing with air pollution.

Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower is now often pictured clouded by thick smog — a symbol of the city’s increasingly dangerous battle against toxic air. The air pollution levels in the so-called City of Lights reached “alert threshold” in late December 2016, Independent.co.uk reported. It was the highest level of air pollution the city has seen in a decade.

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Officials scrambled to respond to the problem by implementing measures to lessen vehicles on the road, which contributed to the toxicity in the air. Public transport was made free on days when smog was bad, in an effort to encourage the public to leave their cars behind. Free use of bicycles and electric cars were also offered to keep people from driving their cars. The city had also introduced an odd-even number scheme that allowed cars to be driven into the city only on alternate days of the week, depending on their number plate.

Elsewhere in the world, other cities are experiencing the same toxic problem. Experts from the Health Effects Institute have determined that air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter, is the top environmental risk factor death globally, according to the State of Global Air 2017 report. Exposure to fine particulate matter is responsible for around 4.2 million deaths around the world. Breathing fine particulate matter contributes to many deadly diseases, including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and respiratory infections.

The report revealed that a troubling 92 percent of the world’s total population live in areas that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits for concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air. The most vulnerable countries include China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The first two countries are especially at risk, counting 1.1 million premature deaths due to air pollution in 2015. Numbers were also high in the United States, which counted 88,400 air pollution related deaths in 2015.

While solutions to the air pollution problem are largely dependent on higher authorities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended several habits that anyone can adopt in an effort to keep the air clean:

  • Conserve energy.
  • Buy energy-efficient home or office equipment.
  • Avoid taking private cars and favor alternative transportation such as carpooling, biking, walking, or taking public transportation.
  • Combine errands and reduce trips with your car.
  • Avoid automobile idling.
  • Follow instructions for refueling, taking caution not to spill fuel and secure the gas cap. Refuel in the evening, when it is cooler.
  • Purchase spill-proof portable gasoline containers.
  • Maintain cars well, keep engines properlytuned.
  • Make sure tires are inflated properly.
  • Favor environmentally safe paints and cleaning products.
  • Compost yard waste.
  • Use gas logs for burning instead of wood.

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