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Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur is a state in the southern region of France, with many of its major cities being famous coastal ones such as Nice and Marseille. In terms of the levels of pollution, Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur was shown to have fairly good readings over the year of 2019, with many of its months across the 11 statewide cities coming within the ‘good’ rating classification, which besides just being a descriptive term for the quality of air, is also a grouping that requires a certain level of pollution to be classed as such. It takes between 10 to 12 µg/m³ in terms of PM2.5 readings to achieve a good rating, being a group that has a very fine margin of entry (only 2 µg/m³ between the lower grouping and the higher one).
Eight out of the eleven rated cities came in with this good rating, with the most polluted city in the state, Toulon, coming in with a 2019 PM2.5 reading of 11.8 µg/m³, putting it into the good category despite being the most polluted out of all cities in the state. Despite this, there were several months out of the year in Toulon (alongside other cities) that came in with a moderate rating (12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³), with the month of February having the highest PM2.5 readings out of all the months.
To give some reference on the disparity between air quality levels throughout the year, in February, Toulon came in with a reading of 22.7 µg/m³, almost double its yearly average. Gardanne (2nd most polluted city in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur) came in with a reading of 21.9 µg/m³. Now in contrast, in the month of May both Toulon and Gardanne came in with readings of 9.2 and 8.4 µg/m³ respectively, putting them inside the World Health Organizations target of air quality which is 0 to 10 µg/m³ of PM2.5, making the air during this time very clean indeed.
There were three cities that came in with a yearly average that fell within the WHO’s target group, Manosque, Grasse and Saint Michael-l’Observatoire. All came in with readings of 7.9 µg/m³, 7.6 µg/m³ and 6.6 µg/m³, making their yearly average of air very clean to breathe. So, to conclude, the pollution levels in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur are good all year round, free of the smoke and haze that would permeate the air in many of the northern French cities. However, it still is subject to the same rises in pollution in the middle and beginning part of the year, and as such, slight adjustments could be made for those who are sensitive to polluted air to make changes in their outdoor activities in order to avoid breathing in polluted air.
There are several instigating factors in elevated levels of pollution found in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur, with some being more prominent than others. Generally, air issues countrywide will be affected by similar sources, and Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur is certainly no exception. Along with its large number of residents in the region, many of the cities in the state see large influxes of tourists nearly the whole year round, due to the preferable climate. With a large number of tourists also means a larger number of cars and buses travelling up and down the state, giving off a significant amount of pollution. These pollutants would include ones such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (S02), both of which are released from vehicles, as well as from industrial processes (factories and other production plants) and the burning of organic material, both man made as well as naturally occurring, with the drier months being susceptible to forest fires.
The most prominent pollutant from vehicles would be nitrogen dioxide, with it being the main pollutant coming from exhaust fumes. There are other pollutants released as well, depending on the fuel used. If the fuel is a fossil based one, such as diesel, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide as well as sulfur can be higher, leading to a larger output of both of those. It can also release higher amounts of particulate matter such as black carbon, which is formed from the combustion of fossil fuels (as well as burnt organic material, both dead and alive).
Black carbon is the main constituent in soot, and can be found accumulated in areas that see high levels of traffic. It has a number of health issues when inhaled, which will be discussed, as well as having prominent environmental effects such as contributing to global warming and climate change, due to its ability to convert solar radiation directly into heat.
Another contributor would be the maritime sector, due to a large number of cities in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur being coastal. Yachts, cruise ships and industrial transportation vessels would find themselves in large quantities moving up and down the coast. Fuel regulations on ships is often slightly less stringent than that of motor vehicles, and as such they often contain higher levels of sulfur. When their exhaust enters the atmosphere, it can bring with it this sulfur (often in the form of sulfur dioxide) which can contribute directly to acid rain, as well as bringing up the overall pollution levels.
Lastly, there is the industrial sector, which can contribute to the ambient levels of pollution in the air year-round due to their constant output of goods and materials. As an example, when examining factories in Marseille, a high concentration can be seen around the city, with factories dealing in engineering and manufacturing, garments and clothing, as well food and drink related products. Many of these factories, despite changing laws, still run on fossil fuels to provide the energy needed for their production lines, which would release its own heightened levels of smoke and haze into the atmosphere.
Any industry related to or using plastic in its production would also contribute to fine particulate matter by releasing microplastics into the atmosphere, as well as any form of molten plastic (as produced by recycling plants and any factory that produces specific plastic packaging) giving off a number of chemical fumes such as mercury, furans, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, all of which have a number of ill health effects.
As stated previously, the quality of air in this state is of very good quality for a majority of the year, with a few exceptions occurring during certain months, but even then the levels of pollution do not get exceedingly bad, for example when compared to extremely polluted cities such as Ghaziabad, India, which came in with a PM2.5 rating of 205.7 µg/m³ in January 2019, it is apparent that they are worlds apart in terms of health issues and the risks of them occurring.
Anyhow, due to the possibility of them still occurring, particularly during spells of smoke and haze, some of the ailments can be listed as such. PM10 and PM2.5 have the ability to enter the lungs and cause irritation to the respiratory tract as well as causing heightened instances of lung cancer. PM10, due to its larger size, can cause chest infections, as well as irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth and nose, also triggering off asthma attacks in those who already suffer from the condition.
As for PM2.5, due to its considerably small size, has the ability to cause far more aggravated health conditions. These would include instances of bronchitis and emphysema, as well as a reduction in overall lung function. This can be particularly harmful in young children who are still developing, with reduced lung function leading to a stunting in growth and further physical and mental defects.
Once again due to its small size, PM2.5 has the remarkable ability to reach the circulatory system with entry via the lung tissue, whereby it can spread around the body, accumulating and causing a host of issues such as hepatic and renal (liver and kidney) damage as well as issues involving reproductive health.
Once in the bloodstream the heart can also become an accidental target, with heart attacks, arrythmias and other forms of heart disease all being part and parcel of breathing polluted air for extended periods of time. Although once again to reiterate, the state of Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur has an extremely good quality of air and these health issues are only of importance during the occasional outbreak of smoke or lingering haze, with preventative measures such as the wearing of particle filtering masks and avoiding outdoor activities often being adequate in fending off these negative aspects.
As with many cities and states across France, the month of February stands out as being the most prominent in its pollution levels. Whilst the southern states and cities do not fall as foul of this as the northern cities do, it still stands to reason that February has the worst readings of PM2.5, followed closely by January, as well as the months of June, July and December also showing elevated readings, and as such those with sensitivities towards pollution may want to take preventative measures for self-protection.
Looking at readings of PM2.5 taken over the years 2017 and 2018 in cities belonging to the state, it is clear that the pollution levels are indeed improving. Every single city showed an improved average in 2019, save for one of them, but this city was already well within the WHO’s target air quality so the difference in readings was almost negligible. As a closing example, the city of Gardanne came in during 2018 with a reading of 12.1 µg/m³, and 12.2 µg/m³ in 2017. However, in 2019, it came in at 11.2 µg/m³, having moved down a whole group ranking from moderately polluted to ‘good’ air quality levels. If this trend continues then the whole state may see marked improvements over the next few years.