Road infrastructures

Selection of the pollutants to be considered in health risk assessments conductedas part of impact assessments

As part of the revision of the Circular on impact assessments concerning the construction or upgrading of road infrastructures, ANSES received a formal request to update the list of substances to consider in health risk assessments. In an Opinion and Report published in August 2012, the Agency proposes a list of 14 pollutants and two classes of pollutants.

French and European regulations (Article L122-1 of the French Environmental Code, transposing Directive 85/337/EEC as amended) stipulate that "public or private works, installations or development projects, which by their nature, size or location are likely to have significant effects on the environment or on human health, must be preceded by an impact assessment."

The regulations stipulate that this impact assessment should mainly focus on an analysis of the project’s effects on air, water and soil pollution, and on noise, vibrations and waste.

The format and expected content of the road infrastructure impact assessments are also proposed by an inter-ministerial Circular Inter-ministerial Circular Infrastructure/Health/Ecology of 25 February 2005 and the appended methodological note.

With regard to major road infrastructure projects (level I, as defined in the methodological note according to the predicted traffic load and the number of people affected by the project), a health risk assessment is carried out with regard to sixteen pollutants identified following work conducted under the auspices of the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS) and published in 2004 (Cassadou S., NicouletI., Noppe J., ChironM. et al. (2004). Sélection des agents dangereux à prendre en compte dans l’évaluation des risques sanitaires liés aux infrastructures routières. Rapport du groupe de travail. [Selection of hazardous agents to be considered in the assessment of the health risks associated with road infrastructures. Report of the Working Group] 78 pages + 174 pages of annex.)

After three years of application, the revision of this Circular was approved in 2009 by the relevant ministries in order to incorporate feedback obtained from stakeholders.

In this context, ANSES received a formal request from the French Ministries for Ecology and Healthto:

  • conduct an analysis of the pollutants resulting directly or indirectly from road traffic emissions that may present a health hazard,
  • from among these pollutants, select those which, with respect to emissions, atmospheric concentrations and toxicological data, should be included in an analysis of the health effects of air pollution generated by road infrastructures, specifying for each one the exposure route(s) and duration(s) and the target population(s) to consider, and then to provide a list of pollutants that could be included in the health risk assessments carried out as part of the impact assessments.

Alongside this work, a European consultation was also carried out through ANSES’s European and International Affairs Department, with members of the "Air Quality" and"Transport" networks of the European Environment Agency (EEA).The objective was to learn the approaches used by other European countries, mainly in a regulatory context, for assessing the impact of a road project on air quality and health.

The results of this expertise gave rise to an Opinion and a Report published on 7 August 2012.

The Agency’s work and recommendations

Pollutants related to road infrastructures were listed taking into account the various sources of emissions (vehicles, wear, operation and maintenance of vehicles and road infrastructure).These pollutants were then ranked taking into account data on emissions and their health effects.

This resulted in a list of pollutants to be includedin short- and long-term impact assessments. While conducting this work, the Agency also issued a list of recommendations focusing primarily on the procedures for conducting health risk assessmentsand avenues of research to follow:

  • establishing toxicity reference values for acute and chronic exposure to particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with a view to eventually conducting quantitative health risk assessments;
  • taking oral exposure into account in view of oral exposure to dust and soil following hand-to-mouth contact for children and food intake from consumption of home-grown produce;
  • assessing the use of plant protection products for road maintenance and the use of road de-icing products, from local information reflecting the actual use of these products.
  • conducting measurement campaigns representative of the diversity of road infrastructures warranting an impact assessment, in order to better document the contribution of traffic to air concentrations and atmospheric deposition, especially for PAHs, dioxins and furans;
  • documenting emissions of non-regulated pollutants by performing test-bench and in situ measurements in order to improve the tools used for calculating emission factors in the following situations:
    • exhaust;
    • related to wear, operation and maintenance of vehicles;
    • resuspension of particles deposited on the road and road de-icing products.

ANSES states that the ranking of dioxins and furans is based on emission factors associated with high uncertainty and on a conservative approach, as the most disadvantageous TRV has been selected. To confirm the importance of these pollutants, ANSES encourages as a priority the documenting of emissions for dioxins and furans, and the acquisition of data on atmospheric deposition concentrations.

The pollutants recommended by ANSES for the road infrastructure impact assessments
AcuteRespiratory route
particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
nitrogen dioxide
ChronicRespiratory route
particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
nitrogen dioxide 
16 PAHs*
oral route
16 PAHs*
class of dioxins and furans**

*16 recommended PAHs: acenaphthene, acenaphthylene, anthracene, benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(ghi)perylene, chrysene, dibenzo(a,h)anthracene, fluorene, fluoranthene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, phenanthrene, pyrene and benzo(j)fluoranthene

** Dioxins and furans: EPA (2010) class of tetrachlorodibenzodioxins (TCDD or TeCDD), pentachlorodibenzodioxins (PeCDD), hexachlorodibenzodioxins (HxCDD), heptachlorodibenzodioxins (HpCDD), octachlorodibenzodioxins (OCDD), tetrachlorodibenzofurans (TCDF or TeCDF), pentachlorodibenzofurans (PeCDF), hexachlorodibenzofurans (HxCDF) and heptachlorodibenzofurans (HpCDF).