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Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur is a state in the southern regionof France, with many of its major cities being famous coastal ones such as Niceand Marseille. In terms of the levels of pollution, Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur wasshown to have fairly good readings over the year of 2019, with many of itsmonths across the 11 statewide cities coming within the ‘good’ ratingclassification, which besides just being a descriptive term for the quality ofair, is also a grouping that requires a certain level of pollution to beclassed as such. It takes between 10 to 12 µg/m³ in terms of PM2.5 readings toachieve a good rating, being a group that has a very fine margin of entry (only2 µg/m³ between the lower grouping and the higher one).
Eight out of the eleven rated cities came in with this goodrating, with the most polluted city in the state, Toulon, coming in with a 2019PM2.5 reading of 11.8 µg/m³, putting it into the good category despite beingthe most polluted out of all cities in the state. Despite this, there wereseveral months out of the year in Toulon (alongside other cities) that came inwith a moderate rating (12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³), with the month of February havingthe highest PM2.5 readings out of all the months.
To give some reference on the disparity between air qualitylevels throughout the year, in February, Toulon came in with a reading of 22.7µg/m³, almost double its yearly average. Gardanne (2nd most pollutedcity in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur) came in with a reading of 21.9 µg/m³. Nowin contrast, in the month of May both Toulon and Gardanne came in with readingsof 9.2 and 8.4 µg/m³ respectively, putting them inside the World HealthOrganizations target of air quality which is 0 to 10 µg/m³ of PM2.5, making theair during this time very clean indeed.
There were three cities that came in with a yearly average thatfell within the WHO’s target group, Manosque, Grasse and SaintMichael-l’Observatoire. All came in with readings of 7.9 µg/m³, 7.6 µg/m³ and6.6 µg/m³, making their yearly average of air very clean to breathe. So, toconclude, the pollution levels in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur are good all yearround, free of the smoke and haze that would permeate the air in many of thenorthern French cities. However, it still is subject to the same rises inpollution in the middle and beginning part of the year, and as such, slightadjustments could be made for those who are sensitive to polluted air to makechanges in their outdoor activities in order to avoid breathing in pollutedair.
There are several instigating factors in elevated levels ofpollution found in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur, with some being more prominentthan others. Generally, air issues countrywide will be affected by similarsources, and Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur is certainly no exception. Along withits large number of residents in the region, many of the cities in the statesee large influxes of tourists nearly the whole year round, due to the preferableclimate. With a large number of tourists also means a larger number of cars andbuses travelling up and down the state, giving off a significant amount ofpollution. 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 naturallyoccurring, with the drier months being susceptible to forest fires.
The most prominent pollutant from vehicles would be nitrogendioxide, with it being the main pollutant coming from exhaust fumes. There areother pollutants released as well, depending on the fuel used. If the fuel is afossil based one, such as diesel, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide as well assulfur can be higher, leading to a larger output of both of those. It can alsorelease higher amounts of particulate matter such as black carbon, which isformed 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 befound accumulated in areas that see high levels of traffic. It has a number ofhealth issues when inhaled, which will be discussed, as well as havingprominent environmental effects such as contributing to global warming andclimate change, due to its ability to convert solar radiation directly intoheat.
Another contributor would be the maritime sector, due to alarge number of cities in Provence-Alpes-cote d’Azur being coastal. Yachts, cruiseships and industrial transportation vessels would find themselves in largequantities moving up and down the coast. Fuel regulations on ships is oftenslightly less stringent than that of motor vehicles, and as such they oftencontain higher levels of sulfur. When their exhaust enters the atmosphere, itcan bring with it this sulfur (often in the form of sulfur dioxide) which cancontribute directly to acid rain, as well as bringing up the overall pollutionlevels.
Lastly, there is the industrial sector, which can contributeto the ambient levels of pollution in the air year-round due to their constantoutput of goods and materials. As an example, when examining factories inMarseille, a high concentration can be seen around the city, with factories dealingin engineering and manufacturing, garments and clothing, as well food and drinkrelated products. Many of these factories, despite changing laws, still run onfossil fuels to provide the energy needed for their production lines, whichwould release its own heightened levels of smoke and haze into the atmosphere.
Any industry related to or using plastic in its productionwould also contribute to fine particulate matter by releasing microplasticsinto the atmosphere, as well as any form of molten plastic (as produced byrecycling plants and any factory that produces specific plastic packaging) givingoff a number of chemical fumes such as mercury, furans, dioxins andpolychlorinated biphenyls, all of which have a number of ill health effects.
As stated previously, the quality of air in this state is ofvery good quality for a majority of the year, with a few exceptions occurringduring certain months, but even then the levels of pollution do not getexceedingly 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 isapparent that they are worlds apart in terms of health issues and the risks ofthem occurring.
Anyhow, due to the possibility of them still occurring,particularly during spells of smoke and haze, some of the ailments can belisted as such. PM10 and PM2.5 have the ability to enter the lungs and causeirritation to the respiratory tract as well as causing heightened instances oflung cancer. PM10, due to its larger size, can cause chest infections, as wellas irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth and nose, also triggering off asthmaattacks in those who already suffer from the condition.
As for PM2.5, due to its considerably small size, has theability to cause far more aggravated health conditions. These would includeinstances of bronchitis and emphysema, as well as a reduction in overall lungfunction. This can be particularly harmful in young children who are stilldeveloping, with reduced lung function leading to a stunting in growth andfurther physical and mental defects.
Once again due to its small size, PM2.5 has the remarkableability to reach the circulatory system with entry via the lung tissue, wherebyit can spread around the body, accumulating and causing a host of issues suchas hepatic and renal (liver and kidney) damage as well as issues involvingreproductive health.
Once in the bloodstream the heart can also become anaccidental target, with heart attacks, arrythmias and other forms of heartdisease all being part and parcel of breathing polluted air for extendedperiods of time. Although once again to reiterate, the state of Provence-Alpes-coted’Azur has an extremely good quality of air and these health issues are only ofimportance during the occasional outbreak of smoke or lingering haze, withpreventative measures such as the wearing of particle filtering masks andavoiding outdoor activities often being adequate in fending off these negativeaspects.
As with many cities and states across France, the month ofFebruary stands out as being the most prominent in its pollution levels. Whilstthe southern states and cities do not fall as foul of this as the northerncities do, it still stands to reason that February has the worst readings ofPM2.5, followed closely by January, as well as the months of June, July andDecember also showing elevated readings, and as such those with sensitivitiestowards pollution may want to take preventative measures for self-protection.
Looking at readings of PM2.5 taken over the years 2017 and2018 in cities belonging to the state, it is clear that the pollution levelsare 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 targetair quality so the difference in readings was almost negligible. As a closingexample, 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, havingmoved down a whole group ranking from moderately polluted to ‘good’ air qualitylevels. If this trend continues then the whole state may see markedimprovements over the next few years.