What can we do to fight against air pollution?

One in five deaths around the world is attributable to outdoor air pollution yet politicians are struggling to remedy the situation. In France, the government has even been found at fault by the Court of Justice of the European Union and the French Council of State for not doing enough, while air pollution causes more than 40,000 premature deaths every year. What’s to blame? Natural phenomena certainly contribute (pollen, forest fires, soil erosion, volcanic eruptions, etc.), but most of the damage is caused by human activity (agriculture, industry, transport, construction, etc.), which generates gases and fine particles. In some parts of France transport is the worst culprit, in others, agriculture comes top of the list. In the fight against outdoor air pollution in France, measures must now be taken on domestic heating and road transport, which are respectively responsible for half and a quarter of fine particle emissions in Ile-de-France.

More energy moderation in construction

Energy moderation is about reducing energy consumption, fighting against waste and improving the energy efficiency of buildings. An example is the renovation of energy-inefficient buildings to limit the power required to heat or cool living spaces. In France, there is much to be done: 5.2 million homes have been identified as energy-inefficient.

Clean energy development

People are now being discouraged to heat their homes with wood or fuel oil. It is better to opt for renewable solutions (solar, wind, hydraulic, geothermal energy, etc.) because any activity that burns fossil fuels has an impact on the quality of the air we breathe.

Greener transport

42% of people who work less than one kilometre from home still use their car to get there. Moving away from this car-based approach and encouraging people to walk, ride a bike or scooter, or use public transport is a major challenge in the fight against air pollution. It requires stepping up public transport availability, especially in large cities that are keenly affected by vehicle pollution. It’s worth noting however that the air inside railway tunnels is on average three times more polluted than the air outside, due to fine friction particles (produced by wear on brakes, tyres and rails). Efforts must be made in this area as well to ensure that public transport users can breathe good quality air. 

Driving down the impact of road transport

To fight against air pollution, measures must be taken to reduce the impact of road vehicles. From 2035, petrol- and diesel-powered cars will be banned from sale. At the same time, European standards now regulate nitrogen oxide emissions from exhaust gases. The future Euro 7/VII standard, which is expected to come into force in 2025 will – for the first time – regulate fine particles generated by braking, limiting them to 7 mg/km. This is a step forward, because a car’s braking system emits six times more particles than its exhaust pipe. And solutions do exist! One is the TAMIC®, which sucks away 70% to 90% of the fine particles that are generated by braking, to considerably improve air quality in urban areas. In the fight against air pollution, a combination of factors must come into play, including strict regulations, collective efforts and promising new technologies. This range of solutions has a single goal: to safeguard everyone’s health.

Discover more questions

There are 1.4 billion vehicles in circulation on the world’s roads. From the factory to the scrap yard, these vehicles require raw materials to be extracted from the earth, then emit CO2 and fine particles, which cause damage to our health and our planet. But what’s the solution? Use your car as little as possible, and opt for greener transport solutions: walking, cycling or public transport. But France is a very car-centric country. The best idea is to reduce – as best you can – how much pollution your car generates.
Fine particles are harmful to human health. They can cause or exacerbate breathing and lung difficulties, cardiovascular diseases and even neurodegenerative diseases. This health risk can be limited if car owners would fit particle filters to their vehicles. Installed on exhaust or braking systems, particle filters are anti-pollution devices which capture fine particles emitted by vehicles. There are two types of particle filters: installations designed to capture particles from exhaust fumes generated by diesel and petrol vehicles, and those designed to recover fine particles from brake wear.
Every year in France, air pollution and fine particles cause 40,000 premature deaths. If we’re going to reduce that impact, we need to understand more about them. But behind the generic term “fine particles” lurks a variety of meanings. Fine particles can take different sizes and shapes, can be made up of different things, and can come from different sources. It’s time to take a closer look.