This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Last Thursday, unaware that Paris had become "more polluted than Shanghai and London," I went for a jog around the city. I didn't think anything was different, but according to international media the "smog" was so bad it made the Eiffel tower disappear. On Monday, local authorities banned cars with even-numbered plates from operating within the French capital.
The thing is that—like most Parisians—I didn't really care. In fact, if it weren't for the RATP who made riding the subway free on that day, I wouldn't have noticed that we had reached "pollution index 127." In my eyes the "smog" was just the usual Parisian fog, which I guess is part of the sad reality of living in this city.
But what about those who don't live in Paris? Did the tourists notice how polluted our city is? I went for a stroll around the Eiffel tower to ask the tourists if they'd had any trouble finding it.
VICE: Hi, Emily. Have you noticed a difference in pollution between Chicago and Paris?
Emily: No, not really. I didn't think the air in Paris was polluted until I heard that the subway was free. Which was a good thing.
So, you didn't notice the smog?
No, not really. Paris is a city for tourists—there is the Eiffel Tower and many other sights to see. In fact, there are too many things to do here to care about the smog.
Are you not worried about your health?
As long as I can breathe and my lungs don't hurt, I'm fine. It's not like I'm going to stay here forever.
Eric, do you feel that your lungs are about to liquify?
Eric: Not really. I feel that the air is cooler here than where I come from in the United States.
There is a study that says Paris is the most polluted city in the world.
I don't know anything about that. In any case, I don't feel it. [takes a breath] The air seems clean.
Hey, Aidan. Did you notice that pollution in Paris reached a peak last week?
Aidan: The sky was clogged. But I come from San Francisco—I'm used to cloudy weather.
Turns out that fog was smog. Some media outlets said that Paris in now the most polluted city in the world.
Weird, I always thought it was Beijing. I realized that Paris was polluted when I heard that public transport was free. "It must be important if they need to keep cars out of the city," I told myself.
Would you still have come to Paris if you'd known about the rate of fine particles in the air?
Sure. This city is too iconic to not visit when in Europe.
Hi, Alison. Did you realize pollution in Paris is at a peak at the moment?
Allison: I saw a lot of smog over the city from the plane. But once we landed, everything seemed normal.
So you had no particular problem breathing the Parisian air?
Not at all, I even went jogging around the Champs de Mars.
Where were you before Paris?
What's the difference in terms of pollution between the two countries?
It's the same thing, except it's colder here.
VICE: Do you feel like Paris is the most polluted city in the world, Sofia?
Sofia: The city is grayer than usual, perhaps. I was also unable to see last week's solar eclipse.
At the same time, maybe it's an exaggeration to say that it's the most polluted city in the world. If all these studies were true, the human race would already be extinct.
VICE: What do you think of the quality of the air in Paris, Andrew?
Andrew: I have been in Paris for three days and pollution hasn't once been a topic of conversation, or a problem. The situation seems better than Los Angeles actually. Sometimes the smog forms a very thick veil over there.
So you did not notice the smog in Paris?
The sky is low, but that's it. As a tourist, I'm more interested in the beauty of the city than its pollution. The locals can worry about that.