Île-de-Franceis a state that encompasses some of the more famous cities in France, beingknown as the most populous out of all 18 regions countrywide. It finds itselfin the north central region and is locally known as ‘region Parisienne’ due toit containing the capital city.
Statewidethere are some 12.2 million inhabitants, making it home to a considerableamount of people. Pollution in Île-de-France varies from city to city, withsome coming in with higher yearly averages whilst others sit at a good level ofair quality, within the World Health Organizations target goal of 0 to 10 μg/m³of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 refers to any particulate matter than is 2.5 or lessmicrometers in diameter, making it around 3% the size of a human hair and thusextremely small and hazardous to breathe.
Whenobserving these PM2.5 readings across Île-de-France, the city that came in withthe highest level of pollution was Saint-Denis, with a 2019 yearly averagereading of 16.3 μg/m³, placing it into the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket, albeiton the lower end of the spectrum. A moderate pollution rating requires areading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ onthe PM2.5 scale to be classed as such.
WhilstSaint-Denis came in with the highest level of pollution out of all twelvecities ranked, there is a wide variety of groupings across them, ranging frommoderate all the way down to the WHO’s target goal, with five out of the twelvecities coming within the 0 to 10 μg/m³ range, making their air of a very goodquality to breathe. After this, there were four cities that came in with a‘good’ yearly ranking, which requires a PM2.5 reading of 10 to 12 μg/m³, a veryfine margin for a classification yet still indicative of an overall greatquality of air.
So to summate,there are five cities that are already achieving a great quality of airyear-round (with the exception of some of the earlier months of the year, whichwill be discussed in further detail), four cities that are achieving a goodlevel of air quality, and three cities that are sitting in the moderate yearlyaverage bracket, meaning that there may be room for improvement.
Looking atsome of the more polluted cities in Île-de-France, their decreased air qualityoften come from a similar source. The largest offender, particularly in citiessuch as Paris and Melun (2nd and 3rd place out of mostpolluted cities in Île-de-France) is emissions from vehicles, with largeamounts of smoke, haze and contaminants being released, causing higher levelsof US AQI to show up as well as higher levels of PM2.5 and PM10 to permeate theair.
With a largevariety of vehicles such as cars and trucks populating the roads, they would bereleasing a sizeable amount of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2)and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with nitrogen dioxide being of chiefconcern due to the higher quantities released from exhaust fumes. Other causesof pollution would be, besides the transportation industry, heating for homesand businesses, as well as emissions given off by factories, although aspreviously mentioned it is the large volume of traffic that is responsible forthe higher year-round ratings, as well as being responsible for the release ofozone (O3) and carbon monoxide (CO), with heavy metals such as leadalso finding their way into the atmosphere via car fumes.
According toAirparif, an organization that monitors the levels of air quality in Paris,heating of homes and businesses is also of concern, with the numbers during thecolder months reflecting this with their higher readings of PM2.5. Every cityin Île-de-France came in with heightened readings of PM2.5 starting aroundOctober and peaking somewhere around January to February before declining backto more normal numbers.
As anexample, the cleanest city in the state, Fontainebleau (with a yearly averageof 7.4 μg/m³), came in with PM2.5 readings of 10.3 μg/m³ in January 2019,followed by 12.9 μg/m³ in February, putting it into the moderately pollutedbracket. After this, its numbers quickly fell back into the WHO’s target goalfor the rest of the year, showing that the colder months of winter consistentlycorrelate with higher readings, due to the overuse of heating, or rather thenon-sustainable methods by which this heat is produced and delivered (via the burningof fossil fuels). Other causes would be industrial areas, which rely on heavymachinery powered by fossil fuels for energy, which release their own types ofpollutants into the air, with transportation and heating coming in at the topspots for pollution causes in Île-de-France.
Whilst theoverall levels of air quality in Île-de-France are indeed quite respectable,this would largely depend on which city out of all 12 in the state that onespends the majority of their time in. Whilst even in the most polluted cities,such as Saint-Denis and Paris (1st and 2nd place),pollution levels never rose above 26.3 μg/m³ for Saint-Denis and 23.4 μg/m³ forParis.
Whilst thesereadings could affect those with a sensitivity towards pollution, or sufferersof respiratory issues such as bronchitis or asthma, these readings pale incomparison when compared to a more polluted city such as Delhi in India, which in the year of2019 had its cleanest reading of 31.9 μg/m³ in August, already above Paris andSaint-Denis’s highest readings, but by huge contrast, had its worst reading inNovember coming in at 200.7 μg/m³, placing it well into the ‘very unhealthy’bracket, which requires a reading of 150.5 to 250.4 μg/m³ to be classed assuch.
This ismerely for comparison, and not to minimize the pollution that certain cities inÎle-de-France suffer from. As mentioned, whilst it does not endure thecatastrophic readings that a city such as Delhi has, the earlier months of theyear with their higher levels of smoke, haze and PM2.5 readings, may have somehealth consequences, some of which will be discussed in greater detail.
Of note isthat for those who live in the cities that see a majority of their months fallinto the WHO’s target goal (such as Fontainebleau and Blandy), they would bebreathing air that is of very good quality for most of the year.
For thecities across the state that fall into the moderate ratings for a majority ofthe year, as the numbers of PM2.5 in the air become elevated, so too do thepossibilities of negative health effects occurring. These would include manyrespiratory ailments, with bronchitis, emphysema and aggravated asthma attacksall being possible, particularly in those who may have compromised immunesystems or are prone to respiratory illnesses.
Others wouldinclude higher rates of cancer, particularly of the lungs due to PM2.5’s (andto a lesser extent PM10’s) ability to penetrate deep into the lungs where itcan accumulate. Besides heightened rates of cancer, it can also cause scarring ofthe lung tissue and an overall reduced capacity, with finely ground materialssuch as silica dust (given off largely by construction sites) all able to causethis internal damage, as well as other materials with carcinogenic propertiessuch as benzene finding their way in.
For pregnantmothers who are exposed to prolonged bouts of pollution, as experienced moreprominently in the earlier parts of the year (with the overall ‘clean’ airquality city of Chatou coming in with a fairly high reading of 29.7 μg/m³ inFebruary 2019), there may be a host of problems such as increased rates ofmiscarriage, babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight.
Other issueswould include damage to the liver, kidneys as well as the reproductive systems.With the knowledge of these ill effects all being a real possibility,preventative measures such as wearing particle filtering masks or avoidingoutdoor activity during the worst months may be helpful in reducing the chancesof such incidences occurring, as well as staying up to date on the pollutionlevels via air quality maps as available on the IQAir website, or the AirVisualapp.
Observing thedata taken over 2019, it is clear that Île-de-France has its best quality ofair, across all cities, in May through to September. October still sees somecleaner ratings, although it is around this time that a decline in the airquality starts to become apparent, with cities such as Paris seeing a jump from9.6 μg/m³ in September (WHO target rating) up to 12.7 μg/m³ in October(moderate pollution rating), proof of the sudden decline, with other cities alsojumping up a bracket or two from September to October.
Some of the bestreadings statewide were also taken in September, making it officially thecleanest month of the year. Fontainebleau came in with a very low reading of 4 μg/m³,whilst Blandy also came in with 4.6 μg/m³, as well as Chatou coming in at 4.2 μg/m³.This unanimously makes September the cleanest month across Île-de-France, withthe months preceding it also coming in with good numbers, making the middle ofthe year the time when the air is of the highest quality, devoid of smoke, hazeand other unwanted particulate matter.