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Choking Air Pollution in Paris Prompts Driving Restrictions and Free Transit

A weather inversion has caused the highest air pollution in the French capital in ten years. To coax commuters from their cars, free transit and odd-even license plate driving restrictions were enacted by Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday
December 9, 2016, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Paris pollution consists of fine particles mostly from residential heating and cars," reports Elaine Beardsley, a Paris-based correspondent for National Public Radio. The pollution is "compounded by a weather phenomenon known as inversion where warmer, heavier air keeps colder air and pollution trapped on the ground."

The free transit comes with major costs, "around €4 million a day," about $4.2 million, reports Oliver Gee for The Localto be "footed by the region's transport authority STIF." It will continue for a fourth day, Friday, according to STIF.

An expert warns that the fine particulate pollution, which is emitted in higher concentrations from diesel vehicles than gasoline-powered cars, is so serious that breathing the ambient air for an hour can impact one's health. And that warrants extreme measures.

The inversion comes days after Paris, Athens, Mexico City, and Madrid agreed to ban diesel vehicles from their city centers.

As for the effectiveness of the driving restrictions, Gee writes that thousands of drivers ignore them On the first day, Dec. 6,  "1,700 were fined for flouting the ban."

However, changes are in store for drivers and their vehicles to replace the odd-even restrictions.

Paris will roll out new anti-pollution sticker system next year. During spikes in air pollution the most polluting vehicles will be banned instead of barring cars based on their number plates. 

Readers may recall that Mayor Hidalgo enacted similar restrictions due to unhealthy air quality in 2014 and 2015. In July, Paris banned vehicles older than 19 years from driving in the city on workdays. Apparently more measures are needed to protect Parisians' health.

Since wood burning was indicated as a source of air pollution, Paris could learn from regions in California that have enacted wood-burning restrictions. For example, in the Bay Area, "when a Winter Spare the Air Alert has been called, burning wood, firelogs, pellets, or any other solid fuels in your fireplace, woodstove, or other wood-burning device is illegal," warns the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

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Published on Thursday, December 8, 2016 in NPR
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