While air pollution causes 48,000 premature deaths per year in France, the new air quality index, operational in early 2021, will integrate fine particles and cover the entire territory, the authorities announced on Wednesday. September 16. An evolution in accordance with European criteria.
This new index will be “More precise and more complete”, “More representative of the state of air quality, but also more in line with citizens’ expectations”, estimated the Ministry of Ecological Transition on the occasion of National Air Quality Day. One of the main innovations, already announced a year ago, is the integration of fine PM2.5 particles (less than 2.5 micrometers) with four other regulated pollutants aggregated by the current index (PM10 particles, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide).
Created in 1994, the ATMO air quality index had little changed since then. It did not – or little – take into account PM2.5 fine particle pollution, focusing on the criterion of the presence of PM10 particles. However, PM2.5 penetrates the body more deeply and causes greater damage.
With this addition, combined with the lowering of certain thresholds for the other four pollutants, “We will have more days with a bad or very bad index”, commented Marine Tondelier, General Delegate of ATMO France (the national body which brings together all the approved associations for monitoring air quality).
The new index declined “on a finer scale”
However, this will not mean a deterioration in air quality, which has tended to improve for twenty years, insists the organization. For example, Paris recorded ten days with an index ” bad “ or worse between 2015 and 2017. According to ATMO’s calculations, this number of days would have been 83 with the rules of the new index. In Marseille, the number of days would have increased from 8 to 86, in Lyon from 14 to 108, or in Lille from 12 to 53.
While the current index only concerns agglomerations with more than 100,000 inhabitants, the new one will be declined “On a finer scale”, with the daily calculation of the index at the level of at least each inter-municipality, or even municipalities.
The scale from 1 to 10 will be replaced by six classes, from ” Well “ at “Extremely bad”, with the disappearance of the level ” very good “ and the creation of the level “Extremely bad”. The corresponding color code will go from blue to magenta. To determine the color of the day, a sub-index is calculated for each of the pollutants and the general index corresponds to the most degraded of the five.
The ATMO index is a thermometer intended to better communicate to the public but does not replace tools for managing pollution peaks. In the event that thresholds are exceeded, other tools make it possible to trigger risk information systems for the public or measures such as speed reduction on the roads or differentiated traffic.