Over the last ten years, the air quality in and around Toulouse a city in the south of France has seen a considerable improvement, resulting in a decline in pollution and a parallel decrease in the number of deaths. This positive development comes as a surprise, especially considering the booming population in Toulouse. The air quality in the Pink City and its surroundings has been on a positive trajectory over the years.

A 40% Drop in Particulate Matter and 17% Decrease in Nitrogen Dioxide

According to a press release from the Atmo Occitanie Regional Air Observatory, between 2009 and 2019, the levels of fine particulate matter PM2.5 decreased by 40%, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) saw a reduction of 17% across the entire Toulouse region.

These figures offer hope for better health outcomes. Coupled with the decrease in pollution, various health-related issues are also on the decline, albeit gradually, as the negative effects of poor air quality take time to manifest. As of January 24, Atmo classified the air quality as “degraded.”

A 50% Reduction in Mortality Over a Decade

On a positive note, the mortality rate for individuals aged 30 and above, related to fine particulate matter, has shown a remarkable decline of 54%. Similarly, the mortality rate caused by nitrogen dioxide has dropped by 30% over the past decade. These improvements in mortality rates are based on data from Atmo in collaboration with the Regional Health Agency (ARS).

Leading the list of health concerns are strokes and lung cancers. In 2009, fine particulate matter was responsible for 159 deaths per year per 100,000 inhabitants across 117 municipalities. This number has significantly dropped to 73 over the course of the past ten years.

Strokes have decreased by 51%, and lung cancers, attributed to PM2.5, have seen a reduction of 56%, thanks to a healthier atmosphere.

Despite the positive trends, there is still work to be done. According to the observatory, if the level of fine particulate matter adhered to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended value of 5 micrograms instead of the current 8 to 10, a considerable number of cancers, strokes, and deaths could be avoided. This translates to six fewer diseases per year for every 100,000 inhabitants, along with 15 fewer strokes, 73 fewer deaths due to fine particulate matter, and an additional 19 related to nitrogen dioxide in the broader Toulouse area.

There are still some concerns 

Despite the progress, it is essential to recognize that air pollution exacerbates social disparities. The regional organization notes, “The more disadvantaged the population, the more vulnerable they are to exposure to atmospheric pollution.” Factors such as working conditions, housing, access to healthcare, and nutrition play crucial roles. To address this, the focus should be on home insulation, opting for greener energy sources, and adopting eco-friendly modes of transportation like cycling, concludes Atmo.

As of 2017, Insee reported that residents of outlying Toulouse neighborhoods still relied on cars for four out of five short trips. The road to cleaner air and improved health outcomes still lies ahead.