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Air pollution has been of growing concern for many, many decades, causing environmental effects like acid rain, haze, eutrophication, ozone depletion, crop and forest depletion, global climate change, and effects on wildlife. It also wreaks havoc on human health, with long-term effects including cancer, damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems.

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It is often assumed that air pollution has the biggest effects in developing cities, but urban areas in the Western world are just as affected by increasing levels of smog as well. In fact, Paris is currently dealing with an “exceptionally serious” crisis, with a significant increase in pollution, revealing to be the most prolonged event for at least a decade.

The city announced that, due to this crisis, all public transport with be free for the second day running, meanwhile the Velib bike-share and Autolib electric cars were also free to use. Paris has even ignited a system in which just half of all cars are permitted to enter the city center.

The city has been racing red-alert levels of pollution since Nov. 30, causing Paris City Hall to take action against the significant risk it has been to residents’ health. Authorities believe the pollution is a result of weather conditions and a heavy dependence on diesel fuel.

On Tuesday, only cars presenting an even-numbered license plate were allowed to drive in the capital region, and on Wednesday, it is the turn of all cars with an odd-numbered plate. Should anyone defy the authorities’ rules, they will be fined €35. On the first day alone, 1,700 fines were handed out.

This temporary ban on half of all vehicles follows the recent announcement from the Paris mayor that, along with three other major cities, they were working to ban all diesel cars by 2025 as a means to cut back on the dangerously high levels of air pollution residing in the capital. The city hopes that by promoting alternative vehicles, while also pushing for people to take advantage of walking and cycling, they can restore a healthier environment for Mother Earth and its people to coexist.

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“Mayors have already stood up to say that the climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face,” explained Anne Hidalgo, who is Mayor of Paris and new Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes – particularly for our most vulnerable citizens. Big problems like air pollution require bold action, and we call on car and bus manufacturers to join us.”

The windless conditions spanning the city have worsened the already terrible condition of smog blanketing the capital, resulting in this pollution being incapable of properly dispersing itself as it usually would. It is thought that air pollution kills at least 3 million people globally, with most deaths occurring within major cities. The conversation can no longer be ignored — with the obvious concerns of pumping dangerous gasses and particles into the streets far too obvious. This is provoking more urban centers to take action.

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