Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)

Fine dust which penetrates deep into our lungs and into the bloodstream. The finer particles carry other pollutants into our bodies, including carcinogenic or toxic compounds (heavy metals, PAHs  etc). Wood-fuelled heating, transport and industry are particle emitters.

Health consequences:

  • Lung diseases: chronic bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer....
  • Heart attack and stroke

Numerous studies have established a link between mortality and the amount of particles in the air.
A decrease of 10 μg/m3 PM2.5 particles in the air increases life expectancy by 5 to 9 months.

High number of deaths due to particulate pollution:

  • 42,000 deaths per year in France
  • Nearly 400,000 deaths in Europe each year


Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Toxic acrid smelling gas that is noticeable on polluted roads. Diesel engines are amongst the largest emitters of this gas.

Health consequences:

  • Increased risk of acute bronchitis
  • Cough and phlegm, particularly in children
  • Reduced lung function
  • Increase in allergic reactions to pollens
  • Increased risk of lung cancer

Asthmatics and children are most vulnerable to NO2 exposure.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Compounds produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and organic materials which exhibit high toxicity. Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is one of the most toxic HAPs. It is recognized as a carcinogen. It can be found in emissions from wood-fuelled heating systems, in the exhaust gases from diesel engines, but mostly in industrial emissions.

Health consequences:

  • Absorbed through the lungs, intestine and skin PAHs are carcinogenic.

Diesel: a poison

In 2012 WHO classified diesel exhaust as a carcinogenic.

The impact of local air pollution

The air quality in the Arve valley is similar to that found in major cities in the Rhone-Alps region and has a direct impact on the life expectancy and health of the exposed population.

The Institute for Public Health Surveillance in the Rhone-Alps Region (InVS) recommends:

 "To protect the health of people it is necessary to reduce overall pollution levels throughout the valley all year round and for all pollutants. Indeed, air pollution generates health risks even when regulatory standards are met and it is the background pollution and not the peaks that mainly contributes to the health impact."

Sources: Ministry of Ecology, Clean Air for Europe, Environment Health Association France, International Association for Research on Cancer, WHO, PPA of the valley of the Arve report.