Marseille, Capital of Air Pollution

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills 500,000 people in Europe each year, 48,000 of which in France.

 85 % of the residents of Bouches-du-Rhône are exposed to concentrations of air particles (PM10) that exceed the quality guidelines of the World Health Organization.

The Bouches-du-Rhône, and Marseille in particular, appears to be the most polluted area in the Southern region.

Particulate matter (PM) is one of the main indicators of air pollution. The concentration in PM10 (particles of less than 10 micrometres in diameter) is historically measured across the country by organisations accredited in the surveillance of air quality.

Pollution close to schools


Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution reaches an illegal level near 189 schools and nurseries of the urban area of Marseille.

A political agenda?


Nitrogen dioxide emissions (NO2) have only been reduced by 5% in 17 years in the metropolis of Aix-Marseille, compared to over 20% in Toulouse or Avignon (2019).

Causes of Marseille’s air pollution:


Lack of public transport


Marseille only has 1,129km of bus, tram, and metro lines, compared to 3,886km in Lyon.

Lack of bike lanes


According to estimates, Marseille only has 55 to 130km of cycle lanes, compared to 750km in the urban area of Lyon, and its lanes are generally segmented and totally inoperable

Maritime transport

In Europe, air pollution coming from maritime transport is responsible for 50,000 to 60,000 deaths per year.

France Nature Environnement  is the French federation of organisations for the protection of nature and the environment.

It is the spokesperson of a movement of 3,500 associations, represented by 57 member organisations throughout the whole of France, metropolitan and overseas.

In a residential neighbourhood close to the port, the air can become up to 20 times more polluted with an average of 60,000 ultrafine particles per cubic centimetre.

But what are these ‘ultrafine particles’?
The term encompasses the different microscopic solid components transported in the air. While ‘fine particles’ refer to pollutants smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns (that is, 0.01 and 0.0025 millimetres), ‘ultrafine particles’ measure less than 100 nanometres, that is 0.01 microns, or 0.0001 millimetres. It’s about the width of a strand of hair cut into a thousand. And the smaller the particle, the deeper it infiltrates and accumulates within organisms, generating serious health problems.