June 13, 2019 / 1:05 PM / 4 months ago

French utility Veolia sees money from tackling indoor air pollution

PARIS (Reuters) - French water and waste group Veolia is starting a new line of business in tackling indoor air pollution, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Antoine Frerot told BFM Business TV that air pollution is one of the world’s top health challenges and that the company had started offering ventilation and air purifying services for offices, schools, shopping malls and other public buildings.

“Many people do not know that the air inside is often more polluted than outside air,” said Frerot.

Frerot did not specify how much the utility is earning from air purifying services now or how much it expects to earn in coming years, but he said the problem is global and companies were just beginning to address the problem.

“Air today is like water 150 years ago, when Veolia was born. At the time, Pasteur said that 90 percent of what we drink causes illness,” he said, referring to 19th century French scientist Louis Pasteur.

Veolia already handles air quality services for French cinema chain Gaumont-Pathé in the cities of Caen and Lyon, as well as for the headquarters and 30 Paris sites of French bank Societe Generale

Veolia’s air purifying activities will be headed by Frédéric Bouvier, the former head of Paris air quality monitoring agency Airparif.

The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year - from diseases such as stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infections - and that nine out of ten people worldwide breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

French health and food safety agency Anses estimates that in temperate climates people spend 85 percent of their time indoors, at home, at work or in public transportation, where they are exposed to numerous forms of pollution.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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