Burning smell in Île-de-France: what are these particles detected in Paris?

A burning smell spread through Paris on the evening of Tuesday July 19, 2022, in the midst of a heat wave. A sharp increase in particle concentrations was observed, in connection with the fires in Gironde and Île-de-France.

While the inhabitants of Île-de-France were still suffocating in the heat wave on Tuesday evening, July 19, 2022, several people reported a suspicious smell, especially in the capital. ” All of Paris smells of burning », « Do you smell a fire in Paris? », « Paris has a special smell “, could we read on Twitter.

The origin of this foggy atmosphere was quickly explained by the Paris Police Headquarters: ” You may smell a burning smell outside. This smell certainly comes from the ongoing fires that are raging in France. The reason ? The versatility of the wind », has indicated the prefecture around 9 p.m., on Twitter.

The sky of Paris, the evening of July 19, 2022. // Source: Via Twitter @eme_sauvage, cropped image

According to Airparif, the air quality observatory in Île-de-France, the phenomenon could be linked to several fires: the fires that rage in Gironde, but also fires in Île-de-France. ” Particle concentrations are currently rising sharply in connection with a rise in air mass impacted by fires in Gironde and local fires in Île-de-France », tweeted Air parif. As noted by France Info, two fires broke out in the Sarthe. Note that a fire also broke out in the 16th arrondissement of Paris on Tuesday evening: we can assume that this source of pollution was added to the others.

On this animation broadcast by La Chaîne Météo, we can see how the fine particles from the fires in Gironde moved over France on Tuesday July 19, until they reached Île-de-France in the evening.

Fine particles are one of the main pollutants in the event of forest fires

The link between fires and particles is not necessarily easy to understand. As explained on its website ATMOS Grand Est, an association responsible for monitoring the air in the Grand Est region, ” forest fires […] have many impacts on the environment and air quality:” The association refers to a report by the National Health Security Agency (ANSES), released in 2012. In its study, ANSES lists the main chemical compounds detected in the smoke produced by this type of fire.

The agency notes that the composition of the fumes varies according to various criteria: the type of fuel, the combustion conditions, or the humidity, among others. Nevertheless, ANSES mentions that two types of pollutants are particularly present: carbon monoxide and the famous suspended particles. ” During wildfire events, particulate matter is the most consistently high air pollutant in smoke-impacted areas “, writes ANSES in its expert report.

The agency estimates, in this work, that approximately 80% of the mass of these particles is made up of fine particles, that is to say whose diameter is estimated at 2.5 microns (μm). ” These characteristics make them easily transportable over long distances of up to several hundred kilometers. “, completes ANSES – in the case of Gironde and Île-de-France, a distance of around 500 kilometers.

What are the effects of these fine particles about health ?

It depends on the diameter of the particles, in particular on their fineness. The largest particles, with a diameter greater than 10 microns, are retained by the nose and the upper respiratory tract. Below this diameter, they become more toxic because they penetrate deeper into the body.

Those whose diameter is less than or equal to 2.5 microns […] are even more harmful to health. These can cross the pulmonary barrier and enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancers “, according to the WHO. Hence the importance of carrying out air quality measurements.

Unfortunately, there is no way to protect yourself individually against fine particles, which spread everywhere. In the event of a peak in this pollution, we can however apply certain advice: avoid intense physical activity and outings at peak times, favor short outings and continue to ventilate your accommodation.

To protect it, we must understand the Environment

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