Paris Put on Air-Pollution Alert as Cold Snap Traps Diesel Fumes

Paris was put on an air-pollution alert today as cold weather entrapped diesel fumes, leading to the most severe smog in the French capital since 2007.

The pollution index for the French capital reached the highest of five levels for fine particulates, according to Airparif, which monitors air quality. The government urged reduced auto speeds on main roads and asked people to refrain from driving diesel vehicles lacking proper filters and from lighting up wood fireplaces.

“Irresponsible policies” that encourage the use of diesel are causing the pollution, Deputy Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said today on France Info.

The pollution alert may reignite debate over taxes on diesel fuel, which in France are lower than for gasoline. Environmental groups have urged the government to align the levies while carmakers such as PSA Peugeot Citroen have resisted the move.

The pollution alert today was extended to a dozen French regions hit by a cold snap that has pushed temperatures below freezing in the past few days and is expected to last through tomorrow. The warnings included Alsace and Normandy as well as the southern Mediterranean area around Nice.

“Bad air quality from particulates” can provoke allergic and asthmatic symptoms, Environment Minister Philippe Martin said in a statement.

Airparif put its air-pollution index at the highest level because the concentration of so-called PM10s is poised to be greater than 100 micrograms per cubic meter.

“The current period of pollution is equivalent to one last experienced in 2007,” Arthur de Pas, a spokesman for Paris-based Airparif, said by telephone.

Paris Air

France has been put on notice by the European Commission for not respecting rules on emissions of PM10, which refers to particulates less than 10 micrometers in diameter.

Airparif has warned in the past that residents of the French capital suffer from “chronically high levels” of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulates.

For today, the Paris mayor made residential parking free in a bid to get people to leave their cars at home and use mass transit. Speed limits were lowered along the Parisian ringroad and major arteries leading to the French capital that are typically clogged with commuters during weekdays, the Paris mayor’s office said on its website.

Earlier this month, Shanghai warned children and the elderly to stay indoors as the level of the most harmful pollutants exceeded more than 10 times the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization.

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