France publishes 1999 state of environment report
The French environmental statistics agency (IFEN) has published the 1999 edition of its annual state of the environment report.
The report shows little progress on major issues, but does provide more information and cover a greater range of topics. Launching the report, Environment Minister, Dominique Voynet, drew attention to the news sections covering: emissions to air, land and water; fisheries; coastal and mountain areas; genetically modified organisms; environmental professionals; and environmental health.
Noise pollution was reported as a significant factor, with one in four workers (3 million) suffering from noise pollution in the workplace, and 13% exposed to in excess of 85 decibels. Deafness is the most costly professional ailment to the Social Security department, with some 800 million Francs (approx £86 million) paid out in compensation each year. Traffic noise is also a major factor – 89% of the roads in the Ile de France region (excluding central Paris) were found on average to exceed the disturbance level of 60 decibels, between 6 a.m. and midnight. The current annual expenditure (2-300 million francs) to on reducing noise for the 350,000 affected homes is reported as “very insufficient”.
The report cites a number of problems connected with the use of chemical products, these include accidents through increased domestic use chemicals, particularly pesticides; high levels of dioxins found in milk produced near waste incinerators in northern France; and inconsistent implementation of regulations covering the use of chemicals. It gives the example of an EU study, which found that 40 percent of new colorants introduced between 1993 and 1996 were commercialised illegally.
In the section on genetically modified organisms, IFEN predicts that in 20 years time, genetically modified crops will occupy 60 million hectares of land world-wide (81% of which in North America). IFEN calls for a long-term independent vision of agriculture, and its relationship to land and eco-systems. It also stresses the need to weigh up the economical, social, ethical and political sides of the debate on GMOs, as well as the health and environmental risks.
The report will be published in English in Spring 1999, and a summary can now be seen on the IFEN website.
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