Air Pollution: Despite real awareness; the air quality is still unsatisfactory

Ozone, fine particles, nitrogen dioxide … The air we breathe is not good. Despite a real awareness, there is still much progress to be made. It is time to get started. The health effects are real.

Industrial and traffic emissions we continue to pollute the atmosphere.In recent years, indicators for the three most toxic monitored are not satisfactory.

Emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), harmful to the respiratory tract, decreased until 2002, but since they stagnate. The average concentrations of ozone, another irritant gas that develops under the effect of solar radiation, increase significantly. “Maybe this is the effect of global warming,” says Laurence Rouil, Ineris (National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks). Finally, the rate of fine particles stagnate, while remaining at high levels.

Do not forget pesticide residues (lindane, atrazine, endosulfan …) in the air, more in summer than in winter. Their number as their concentration increases after periods of application. “The air contamination by pesticides is a new component of air pollution, there are no areas where there is nothing,” says AbserrazakYahyaoui responsible Lig’Air.


Some fine particles suspended in air are so small that they penetrate the respiratory tract and convey, to the blood flow, all of the toxic atmosphere. They have a short term effect on mortality. “Whenever the concentration of fine particles on a given day increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the number of deaths increased by an average of 1%,” says Christophe Declercq, the Institute for Public Health Surveillance.

Chronic exposure to these particles also has a long-term effect on mortality. According to the World Health Organization, 350,000 deaths (mainly from cardiovascular diseases) are due each year in Europe, too high levels of PM 2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns). In total, we would lose six to nine months of life expectancy due to these particles.


“In 1998, 8.2% had asthma French. In 2008, 10.12%. This increase is partly due to outdoor air pollution and allergic underlying” field, said Dr. Benedict Wallaert, Chairman Scientific Francophone Congress of Allergology. The patient’s symptoms worsen because of the poor quality of air. The pollution amplifies inflammation of mucous membranes, which lowers the threshold for allergic people. And these become more sensitive to allergens (dust mites, pollen, animal hair …).


Air pollution does not stop at the doors of our homes! The air we breathe inside four walls, too, loaded with toxic molecules. There are approximately 5000 indoor pollutants that are responsible for asthma, rhinitis and allergies and, in the longer term, of cancer.

In fact, indoor air is degraded by “volatile organic compounds” (benzene, formaldehyde, toluene …) issued, inter alia, cleaning products and crafts. Added to this are the molds that form in damp or poorly ventilated air besides carbon monoxide, responsible of serious poisoning.

And that’s not all. In the countryside and in the city, we find traces of pesticides in homes. And even lindane, an insecticide used in the treatment of wood, a suspected carcinogen and banned for several years!


– Data assembled by the Department of Observation and Statistics (SOeS) of the General Commission for Sustainable Development (CGDD).


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