In a first for France, a yoga teacher suffering from chronic respiratory problems sued the state on Wednesday for failing to protect her from the effects of air pollution.
Clothilde Nonnez, 57, says she decided to take action after “nearly dying” from a pollution-related illness during a pollution spike in Paris in December 2016 which saw her hospitalized.
“I couldn’t breathe” Nonnez told le Parisien “I had fever and my throat was in agony. I really thought I was going to die.”
Her lawyer Francois Lafforgue said his client is seeking 140,000 euros ($158,000) in compensatory damages for the health costs imposed by the state’s “culpable incompetence” on pollution.
— RMC (@RMCinfo) June 8, 2017
“Her life (has) been heavily disrupted by her medical problems, spells in hospital during peaks in pollution and her ongoing treatment,” he told AFP, adding that poor air quality could accrue her risk of cancer.
While Nonnez is the first such plaintiff to take legal action, Lafforgue said that around 30 other people were expected to follow suit in several cities across France, including Lyon and Lille.
By denouncing the state’s “band-aid” policies, she said she hopes to spur public authorities to act on an issue they’ve failed to address effectively for so many years.
Air pollution is famously bad in the French capital, where it is blamed for around 48,000 premature deaths each year, according to a 2016 report.
During last year’s pollution spike, the city introduced a series of measures to try and dispel smog, including limiting the circulation of cars produced before 1997 — as they are thought to be the must polluting ones— and briefly making all public transport free to use, a measure that cost Paris’ Transport Authority a reported 4 million euros per day.
The city has also since maintained alternate-day driving, whereby only odd numbered vehicles are allowed on the road on certain days.
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) December 6, 2016
If smog is an ongoing issue in the city of lights, it comes nowhere near the pollution levels of cities in other parts of the world such as Beijing, Riyadh or Zabol in Iran — currently the city with the worst air quality worldwide.