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|2||Nice, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur|
|6||Clermont Ferrand, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes|
|8||Strasbourg, Grand Est|
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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 18 US AQI||PM10|
PM2.5 concentration in Marseille air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Sunday, Oct 1|
Moderate 55 AQI US
|Monday, Oct 2|
Moderate 59 AQI US
|Tuesday, Oct 3|
Moderate 54 AQI US
Good 18 AQI US
|Thursday, Oct 5|
Good 44 AQI US
|Friday, Oct 6|
Moderate 52 AQI US
|Saturday, Oct 7|
Moderate 58 AQI US
|Sunday, Oct 8|
Moderate 74 AQI US
|Monday, Oct 9|
Moderate 76 AQI US
|Tuesday, Oct 10|
Moderate 66 AQI US
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Much like the rest of France, Marseille has air that is of good quality mostly of the year round, save for a few occasional months when the PM2.5 rating rises slightly higher, but still not excessively so. PM2.5 and PM10 refer to particulate matter that is 2.5 or less micrometers across, and 10 micrometers or less respectively. Over the course of 2019, Marseille came in at an average PM2.5 rating of 10.7 µg/m³, putting it into the ‘good’ air quality bracket, which requires a reading between 10 to 12 µg/m³ to achieve, giving it a respectable rating and placing it at number 2311 of all cities ranked in the world.
However aside from these clean air quality ratings, there are occasional times of the year and due to certain events when the air can become less desirable to breathe. As a small coastal town in the far south of France, Marseille has in recent times become more prominent as a tourist destination, with many cruise ships docking there to drop off and pick up passengers. This in itself has caused a number of pollution related problems to arise, which will be discussed in further detail later on. As with all tourist destinations, vehicle related pollution is of constant concern, with more stringent rules being put into place on the types of fuels allowed in these vehicles, as well as those used in the cruise ships found lining the ports.
So whilst Marseille has good air quality ratings year round, there are still areas of concern for many people, with the NGO Greenpeace stating that 58 percent of all schools and nurseries in the city are surrounded by undesirable levels of pollution, often located in the proximity of areas where pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) can be found exceeding the legal levels of what the air should contain. This would be a matter of concern due to children being part of the demographic that is most at risk when exposed to pollution and poor air quality over long periods of time.
As is a common story with the rest of France and indeed that of the world, a majority if not most of the pollution comes from smoke put out by cars and buses, causing a buildup of nitrogen oxide (NOx) as well as other chemicals and fine particulate matter. Vehicles running on diesel are the main offenders, as is often the case, and whilst the city of Marseille is rapidly coming down hard on such offenders, there still remain many such vehicles in circulation and on the roads. As well as the cars and buses, as previously mentioned a unique offender is also the cruise ships found docking in many places by the sea. Many of them keep their engines running whilst docked, which causes a continual output of smoke and pollution. On top of this, the fuel that is used in these large cruise ships often has different regulations on the fuel that they can use, and although laws starting in early 2020 have come into effect to limit the amount of chemicals such as sulfur that these fuels can contain, the continued output of these fumes has almost certainly caused some effects on the residents of the city, with complaints of increased numbers of cancer patients being noted, although there have been no scientific studies as of yet to link the two causalities together.
To compare with another city in France, one can have a look at the most polluted city in terms of PM2.5 matter in the air as recorded over 2019. The city that took the number one spot was Saint-Denis, coming in with a rating of 16.3 µg/m³ as its yearly average, staying consistently ahead of the other cities in both 2018 and 2017, with readings of 17.6 and 19.5 µg/m³ respectively on each year, showing improvement but still taking the first place. This reading put Saint-Denis in at a ‘moderate’ rating, which requires a PM2.5 reading of 12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³ to be classed as such. It only had one month out of the year, September, which came in at a ‘good’ ranking, whilst the rest were all in the moderate bracket, albeit considerably on the lower end of the moderate spectrum. For some comparison on a global scale, the city of Huaihua in China came in with a 2019 rating of 35.4 µg/m³, which would still put it in the ‘moderate’ bracket of how polluted a city, but when the numbers are observed you can see that despite both having the same rating, Huaihua’s level of pollution was over double that of Saint-Denis, making Huaihua a far more polluted city in comparison.
Going back to France, Marseille only had two months recorded in 2019 breaking into the moderate bracket, making its air quality considerably cleaner, although of note it was only cleaner by 5.6 µg/m³ in its yearly average over Saint-Denis, which goes to show how the overall level of pollution in France is not too bad at all, suffering from far less incidents of smog and haze than other countries around the world would suffer from.
In 2016, there was a study carried out over 17 different schools in Marseille, showing a large increase of asthma sufferers amongst schoolchildren, as well as a lack of sufficient ventilation in the school buildings. These would be linked directly to the breathing of pollutants in the air. As asthma falls under the respiratory grouping of conditions, as such you would be able to find many more from breathing similar air, with long term exposure causing a variety of ailments such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes other respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Complaints of residents tell stories of increased cases of cancer, particularly that of the throat, although as stated before there have been no substantial scientific studies to link the two together, especially in regards to the pollution given off by the large cruise ships, which the residents point the finger to as the main cause of the issue. Other issues would include increased risk of heart diseases, as well as irritation to the respiratory tract, eyes and skin.
Overall, it seems that over the past few years, the quality of the air in Marseille has improved, from 14.6 µg/m³ in 2017 down to 10.7 µg/m³ in 2019. This shows that the quality of air has indeed improved, with the stricter regulations being imposed of both road vehicles as well as the cruise ships having an apparent positive effect. With continued improvement and enforcement of pollution reducing methods such as fuel quality control and a reduction in overall car usage amongst the population, it is very possible that Marseille could reach the WHO’s target goal of 0 to 10 µg/m³ within the coming years, with its 2019 rating being just 0.7 µg/m³ shy of achieving that target.
4 Data sources