A Paris court on Tuesday began hearing a case brought by a mother and daughter who, in a legal first in France, are suing the state for damages over ill health caused by air pollution.
The mother and the daughter are asking for 160,000 euros ($179,000) in damages from the state at the administrative court of Montreuil in the east of Paris.
They argue the authorities did not take effective measures against atmospheric pollution, in particular during the very high pollution that Paris endured in December 2016.
The pair say this had an effect on their health, especially as they were living at the time in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Ouen, just outside the clogged peripherique ring road.
The peripherique — opened in 1973 — takes 1.1 million drivers a day but is also a nightmare for the 100,000 people living around it.
Both say they developed respiratory problems that were accentuated during pollution peaks. The mother, 52, has had to take time off work and the daughter, 16, suffered asthma crises.
They have since moved to the city of Orleans on doctors’ advice and their health has improved considerably, says lawyer Francois Lafforgue.
Their legal team argues that French authorities failed to implement rules to better protect the population, did not use all the measures at their disposal and did not properly enforce measures when agreed.
In total, around 50 people across France are taking similar actions against the French state, said Sebastien Vray, the founder of the NGO Respire, which assists the cases of the plaintiffs.