Polluted Paris Forces Half Cars off the Road: Page 2

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Martin said similar measures in 1997 "had yielded results."

The measure is also expensive, with free public transport costing the RATP -- the state-owned Paris train, subway, tram and bus operator -- 2.5 million euros a day, according to RATP head Pierre Mongin.

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France's Automobile Club Association (ACA), which counts some 760,000 members, denounced the move as "hasty, ineffective" and "bound to lead to chaos".

"This measure had no effect in any country where it was introduced," said ACA head Didier Bollecker. "Drivers are being targeted even though heating is more polluting, but no one is asking for heating to be used on alternate days."

Similar measures have been introduced in a number of cities around the world, such as Athens or Beijing.

In the Chinese capital, the government implemented the odd-even number plate system during the 2008 Olympics, and the result was so successful that authorities set up a permanent, watered-down version of the rules that sees cars banned from the roads one day a week.

But that has done little to alleviate the dangerous levels of particulates in the air in Beijing -- one of the most polluted cities in the world.

In Paris, authorities measure the concentration of particulates with a diameter of less than 10 microns -- so-called PM10 -- in the air to determine pollution levels.

PM10 are created by vehicles, heating and heavy industry, and include the most dangerous particles that measure less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and the blood system and are cancer-causing.

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The safe limit for PM10 is set at 80 micrograms per cubic meter.

Last week, the concentration of PM10 particulates in the French capital's atmosphere hit a high of 180 micrograms per cubic meter. The smoggy conditions have been caused by a combination of cold nights and warm days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing.

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