Annecy: health consequences of air pollution

Study by the Institut de Veille Sanitaire (InVS), 28th January 2015
Annecy area, 2009-2011
10 towns and 135.000 inhabitants concerned

Evaluation of the impact of urban atmospheric pollution on health (EIS-PA):  an assessment of the health and economic benefits which could be attained if the levels of air pollution were reduced.

Health impact if the WHO guidelines for the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were respected

  • Short-term (PM10):  7 deaths would be avoided each year
  • Long-term (PM2.5): 70 deaths avoided per year, an increase in life expectancy of 11 months and an estimated economic benefit of 115 million euros per year.

It is chronic pollution which is the health priority for the Annecy area. For InVS "it is essential that background levels are reduced, that is to say the everyday pollution levels and especially the levels of particulate matter".

Sources of emissions of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)

  • Residential 40%
  • Transport 40%
  • Industry 20%

Average particulate exposure over 4 years (2009-2011)

  • PM10: 30μg/m3 (WHO guideline 20μg/m3)
  • PM2.5 : 23μg/m3 (WHO guideline 10μg/m3)
    In comparison, PM2.5 between 2004 et 2006, APHEKOM Marseille 18μg/m3, Paris, Lyon 16μg/m3 

Nitrogen oxides levels, which are good indicators of road traffic pollution, were not studied. Living near a main road is a major factor in the development of asthma among children and chronic illnesses in those over 65 years old. Pollutants emitted by industry were also not included in the study. Only particulate matter and ozone were taken into account in this study.

Conclusion

This study, although incomplete and not assessing the whole mortality rates due to air pollution, concludes that nearly 80 deaths could be avoided if the levels of particulate matter, as laid down by WHO, were respected in Annecy.

In light of  this study, it is clear that a change in transport policy is essential in the Annecy area. The current goal of stabilising the levels of traffic by 2030 is clearly inadequate. Transport policy in the Haute-Savoie capital should be realigned; a shift towards public transport and cycling and walking should become a priority and the development of road transport infrastructure should be reassessed.

An effort also needs to be made to reduce the levels of residential air pollution, with political incentives to improve building insulation, in order to reduce energy consumption and emission of pollutants.  Aligned with this, action should be taken to replace heating systems and develop renewable energy sources, in particular solar heating which is cheap and very clean.

Comparison between Annecy and the Arve Valley

According to InVS, the poor air quality of the Arve Valley, from La Roche to the Mont-Blanc area, resulted in 40 to 50 deaths per year per 100.000 inhabitants. In the Arve Valley the effects of pollution peaks on health are more pronounced than in Annecy. Approximately half the deaths are caused by short-term pollution and the other half by background pollution.  

On a 100.000 inhabitants scale, the reduction of particulate air pollution in Annecy would save 57 deaths per year.  In terms of health impact, the chronic pollution in Annecy is just as serious as the highly publicised pollution in the Arve Valley.

Anne Lassman-Trappier, president of Environn'MontBlanc / Inspire
Jacques Venjean, allergist-doctor