European airport pollution threatens health of 52 million people

European airport pollution threatens health of 52 million people – NGO

/ 01:43 PM June 25, 2024


KLM flight attendants pull their trolley bags as they make their way to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on May 24, 2022. FILE PHOTO/Agence France-Presse

PARIS — High concentrations of tiny particles released when aviation jet fuel is burnt pose a health risk to 52 million people living around Europe’s busiest airports, NGO Transport & Environment warned Tuesday.

Ultrafine particles (UFPs), which are approximately 1,000 times smaller than a human hair, are released during a plane’s takeoff and landing.


Their minuscule size means UFPs easily penetrate human tissues, with growing evidence these particles are harmful to people’s health.


Yet UFPs remain largely unregulated.

READ: ‘Every breath you take’: Air pollution stifles Europe’s health targets

“Tens of millions of Europeans are exposed to increased health risks due to aviation UFPs,” said T&E in a report.

“Fortunately, reducing air traffic and improving jet fuel quality can mitigate the problem in the short term, with additional climate benefits,” the NGO said, calling for better monitoring and UFP reduction targets.

The Brussels-based NGO analyzed UFP concentration levels around Amsterdam-Schiphol airport based on data collected by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands (RIVM).

T&E then extrapolated the findings to Europe’s 32 busiest airports, assuming that UFP pollution grows with air traffic and is evenly spread around each airport.


READ: PH air pollution eases, but still 3 times higher than what’s safe

It found that 52 million people living in a 20-kilometer radius around the airports are at risk of serious health conditions because of high UFP concentration levels.

In a five-kilometer radius around Amsterdam-Schiphol airport, RIVM researchers found UFP concentrations “between 4,000 to 30,000 particles per cubic centimeter (cm3),” according to T&E.

In city centres, UFP concentration reached between 3,000 and 12,000 particles per cubic centimetre, highlighting “the important contribution of airports to UFP pollution,” T&E said.

In February, Airparif, which monitors air quality in the Paris region, recorded UFP concentrations of 23,000 per cm3 at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

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The watchdog found excessive UFP concentrations associated with air traffic were most notable within five kilometres of the airport, but were outstripped by other sources of the particle beyond 10 km.

TAGS: aviation, Europe

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