Society and regional strategies 2 min

Reducing air pollution: policies that pay off

PRESS RELEASE - Reducing fine particle mortality in a conurbation by two-thirds could be achieved at a cost that is much lower than the value of the societal and economic benefits obtained, according to a study by a multidisciplinary team from CNRS, INSERM, INRAE, Grenoble Alpes University (UGA) and Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The study identifies specific public policies that could achieve health objectives set by local decision makers, as well as their expected co-benefits. The findings are published in Environment International on January 15, 2022.

Published on 13 January 2022

illustration Reducing air pollution: policies that pay off
© Remy Slama

Photo: Fine particle pollution event (smog) in Grenoble, 2016

Every year in France, fine particle pollution (particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres1) ) leads to the premature death of around 40,000 people. The associated cost is estimated at €100 billion per year. Despite this, public policies to combat air pollution are generally implemented without first assessing their future health and economic impacts.

The MobilAir project attempts to address this problem by identifying specific policies that would meet the health objectives set by decision-makers in the Grenoble conurbation, namely, a 67% reduction in the mortality rate associated with fine particles from 2016 to 2030. A cost-benefit analysis of various options was carried out by a collaboration involving the Grenoble Applied Economics Lab (CNRS / INRAE / UGA), the Institute for Advanced Biosciences (INSERM / CNRS / UGA), the Centre for Economics and Sociology applied to Agriculture and Rural Areas (AgroSup Dijon / INRAE) and Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

The team targeted the two local sectors that emit the most fine particles: wood heating and transport. They show that the health objectives can be met by combining two measures: replacing all inefficient wood heaters by modern pellet stoves, and reducing personal motor vehicle traffic within the conurbation by 36%. Specifically, these policies would need to be accompanied by financial assistance to households, the development of infrastructure (public transport and/or cycle paths, etc.) and carefully targeted public awareness programmes.

Successful implementation of such policies would result in a series of additional health benefits going beyond the health gains directly related to fine particles, since this would promote physical activity, and reduce urban noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Scenarios involving the most widespread development of active modes of transport (walking and cycling) would lead to a net benefit of €8.7 billion over the period 2016-2045, i.e. an annual benefit of €629 per capita in the conurbation2.

This is the first study in France to demonstrate that the societal benefits associated with measures to improve air quality would outweigh the cost of such measures. It thus provides decision-makers with scientifically validated approaches to significantly improving health throughout the conurbation. 

This work was funded by the Initiative of Excellence (Idex) of Grenoble Alpes University and by ADEME.


1 More than 30 times finer than a hair.

2 This benefit was calculated as the difference between the health benefits of the measures (whether tangible, such as lower medical costs and sick leave, or intangible, such as improved quality of life and mortality rates), and the investments and costs, both private and for the community, associated with these measures. Put another way, depending on the scenario, each euro invested by the community would generate between €1.1 and €4.7 of societal benefit.


Designing local air pollution policies focusing on mobility and heating to avoid a targeted number of pollution-related deaths: Forward and backward approaches combining air pollution modeling, health impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis. Hélène Bouscasse, Stephan Gabet, Glen Kerneis, Ariane Provent, Camille Rieux, Nabil Ben Salem, Harry Dupont, Florence Troude, Sandrine Mathy, Rémy Slama. Environment International, 15 January 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.107030

INRAE Press Office

CNRS Press Office

Scientific contacts

Sandrine Mathy CNRS Researcher

Rémy Slama Inserm Researcher

Hélène Bouscasse INRAE ResearcherCESAER joint research unit (INRAE / UBFC / AgroSup Dijon)



Learn more

Climate change and risks

Better air quality: what should the target values be for improving health?

PRESS RELEASE - To produce a significant reduction in mortality due to fine particulates, their average level should be reduced by at least 3 micrograms per m3 as a yearly average, concludes an interdisciplinary study led by researchers from Inserm, the CNRS, INRA, Atmo Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and the Université Grenoble Alpes. This work, published in Environment International, also provides an estimate of the costs of pollution in urban areas: €1200 per inhabitant per year in the Lyon and Grenoble conurbations.

24 December 2019


Reconciling the development of cities with their environment

If developing cities in harmony with their environment rather than at their expense is the challenge, a more frugal economy based on the sustainable use of living resources and the recycling of organic waste is part of the answer. INRAE has mobilised all its research capacity to re-think the way society produces, processes, recycles, takes territories in account, and helps pave the way to smoother transitions. This transformation must make cities more resilient in the event of upheaval and crises while ensuring sustainable development in the areas they impact.

02 July 2020

Food, Global Health

The exposome: the footprint of a lifetime of exposure

Throughout a person's life, they are exposed in their specific environments to a great many factors – chemical, physical, biological, psychological and even sociological - that define their exposome. While the concept of an exposome was first proposed for public health, it can fairly easily be extended to the health of all organisms and ecosystems via the concept of an eco-exposome.

29 November 2021