French Environment and Energy Management Agency
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Facts and figures
These pollutants consist primarily of sulphur and nitrogen oxides (SO2, NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), ammonia, particulate matter, metals and carbon monoxide (CO). Some of these pollutants are transformed in the atmosphere, producing other pollutants such as ozone and acid compounds.
- SO2 - approximately 0.5 million tons
- NOx - approximately 1.2 million tons
- VOC - approximately 1.4 million tons
- NH3 - approximately 0.7 million tons
- Particulate matter - approximately 1.5 million tons
- CO - approximately 6 million tons
Since the 1980s, SO2 emissions have dropped by 85% and NOx emissions by 39%. Since the 1990s, emissions of VOC have decreased by 40%, those of total suspended particulates by 8%, and those of lead by more than 96% (widespread use of unleaded gasoline). (CITEPA data).
However, these efforts must not be relaxed since air pollution has not been eliminated and, in certain circumstances, regulations call for the implementation of alert measures (restrictions on driving and certain industrial activities) to avoid the occurrence of pollution peaks.
In the past, industrial activities and domestic combustion sources were the principal causes of air pollution in our regions. The situation has changed significantly in the last 20 years as a result of the decrease in these activities and the increase in traffic and the number of automobiles.
Moreover, much of the energy used in France today comes from electronuclear sources. The responsibility for emissions of pollutants varies depending on the different areas of activity. For example (source CITEPA) :
- The primary source of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in France is motor vehicle traffic (approximately 48% of emissions);
- With regard to sulphur dioxide (SO2), emissions from fixed combustion sources such as fuel oil- or coal-based thermal power plants are declining most dramatically (more than 90% of emissions);
- Ammonia is emitted mainly by farm animal manure (80%).
- Sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM10 (respirable suspended particulates, i.e. particulates with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers), lead (Pb), ozone (O3), benzene (C6H6) and carbon monoxide (CO);
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury and PM2.5 (airborne particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers).
Other specific pollutants in the ambient air for which no standards exist (formaldehyde, persistent organic pollutans, ammonia, odours, etc.) are also the subject of studies and monitoring campaigns on a case-by-case basis. These pollutants are governed by emissions regulations.
Air quality is monitored throughout France (mainland and overseas departments) by 38 approved air quality monitoring associations (AASQA). Nearly 400 experts implement this monitoring system, which relies on :
- Approximately 700 measurement stations equipped with automatic instruments (2,200 in total);
- Periodic measurement campaigns and studies;
- 22 mobile laboratory vans;
- Calculation devices used to assess air quality and develop forecasts at the national and local levels.
In accordance with the French “Loi sur l'air” clean air act, ADEME is responsible for the technical coordination of this monitoring system. It also administers a database that contains all the observations of the various AASQAs.
- nitrogen dioxide,
- sulphur dioxide,
- respirable suspended particulates (PM10)
- and ozone.
In Europe, it is believed that a person’s average life expectancy can be reduced by nearly one year (average: -9.6 months) as a result of lifelong exposure to air pollution based on the PM2.5 indicator (airborne particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers). Source INVS and APHEIS European study.
- On average, French motorists emit 2.5 times the weight of their automobile in carbon dioxide (CO2) and one-half of their own weight in miscellaneous pollutants each year
Still, among the most environmentally-friendly means of travel are walking or cycling, whenever practicable.
Inspectors of classified facilities, who come under the authority of the Minister for the Environment (via the department’s prefect), are responsible for researching requests for authorisation and overseeing and monitoring the facilities. They work at :
- The Regional Directorates for Industry, Research and the Environment (DRIRE) for most of the industrial establishments,
- The Departmental Directorates for Veterinary Services (DDSV) for agricultural establishments, slaughterhouses, etc.,
- The Technical Department of the Inspection of Classified Facilities (STIIC).
Industrial facilities, and in particular facilities classified for the protection of the environment, are required to report their air emissions to the French authorities once a year (EPER register, various circulars) and to comply with maximum airborne pollutant levels. For more information about air pollution emissions data, visit the website of the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development. (French web site)
In the industrial sector, enforcement of environmental regulations, technological advances, updating of facilities and voluntary commitments led to a significant reduction between 1990 and 2003 in air emissions of the four leading pollutants (Source CITEPA) :
- 73% for total SO2 emissions
- 30% for total NOx emissions
- 28% for non-methane VOC emissions
- 33% for NH3 emissions