Air pollution emissions from civil aircraft could be responsible for the premature deaths of 16,000 people around the world every year, with an economic cost of up to £13.5 billion, according to a US study.
The study looked at aircraft emissions at 968 airports around the world.
It found that the majority (87%) of the calculated 16,000 deaths per year from aviation emissions were attributable specifically to PM2.5.
Based on 2006 levels of ozone and particulate matter PM2.5 emissions from aircraft, the study – published in volume 10 of the journal Environmental Research Letters – calculated the number of premature deaths using local air quality dispersion modelling from 968 airports around the world, alongside and population density data.
And, of the approximate US$21 billion (£13.5 billion) global economic cost estimated from these deaths, the study found the highest cost was in Europe at more than US$9 billion (£5.8 billion).
Authors of the study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claim the work is the first to analyse air quality and human health impacts of aviation at three different scales
– local level (less than 1km from airport),
– near-airport level (less than 10km) and
– global (up to 10,000km from source).
This is because, according to the study, aviation emissions impact surface air quality “at multiple scales – from near-airport pollution peaks associated with airport landing and take-off emissions, to intercontinental pollution attributable to aircraft cruise emissions”.
However, the study found that around a quarter (roughly 4,000) of the overall estimated deaths could be linked to emissions from aircraft landing and take-off.
Study authors also said the societal costs of aviation air pollution “are on the same order of magnitude as global aviation-attributable climate costs, and one order of magnitude larger than aviation-attributable accident and noise costs”.
The number of air passengers is set to increase over the coming two decades, and the study comes as the UK government considers a controversial recommendation that a third runway is built at Heathrow to increase capacity – a recommendation which is at odds with the views of air quality campaigners (see AirQualityNews.com story).
– Environmental Research Letters volume 10: ‘Global, regional and local health impacts of civil aviation emissions’
Airports Commission urges Heathrow air quality commitment
1.7.2015 (Air Quality News)
By Michael Holder
A third runway should be built at Heathrow, but only if there is a binding air quality commitment that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed, the Airports Commission said today.
The call for a commitment on air quality comes in the long-awaited 342-page report issued today (July 1). In the report, the Commission unanimously concluded that the option to build a third runway at Heathrow “presents the strongest case” for increasing the UK’s airport capacity “and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits”.
It said that expanding Heathrow would also generate up to £147 billion in GDP impacts over 60 years, provide around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.
However, the Commission – led by Sir Howard Davies – stressed that any such expansion should be combined with a “significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts”.
Without appropriate air quality mitigation in place, the report states that both Heathrow expansion schemes which have been considered “would delay compliance with the Directive and hence would not be deliverable within the legal framework”.
The report adds that it would accordingly need to be demonstrated that by 2030, air monitoring receptors in the vicinity of the expanded airport site will “not report the highest concentrations of NO2” in the London sector.
Currently, the highest levels of NO2 in London are on the Marylebone Road, which is the receptor used to report air quality levels for the Greater London area to the EU.
The Commission concludes, though, that “although expansion results in increases in emissions these levels are small when viewed in the national context”.
Commenting on the Commission’s recommendations, Sir Howard Davies said: “At the end of this extensive work programme our conclusions are clear and unanimous: the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new northwest runway.”
He also urged the government not to delay making a final decision as this would be “increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected, open trading economy in the twenty-first century”.
Set up in 2012, the Commission looked at three schemes for UK airport capacity expansion: a third runway at Heathrow; extending the existing northern runway at Heathrow; and building a second runway at Gatwick Airport in Sussex.
Today’s report describes each option as “credible”, adding that “none of the schemes would lead to an exceedance of air quality objectives at any receptor relevant to human health in 2030”.
Gatwick Airport has previously criticised both the Heathrow expansion schemes for their perceived impact on air quality, while claiming that its own expansion scheme would have no impact on the UK’s ability to meet EU legal air pollution limits (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Today’s report also states that the Gatwick second runway scheme is “not forecast to cause any exceedences of legal limits by 2030”.
But, according to the Commission’s report, while the Gatwick scheme is “feasible”, the additional capacity from this scheme would be more focussed on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits would be “considerably smaller”.
It also states that advice from Natural England has indicated that ecological sites around Gatwick are “more likely to be sensitive to changes in air quality than the sites around Heathrow”.
Meanwhile, the report does concede that extending the Heathrow northern runway would deliver similar economic benefits to the preferred third runway option, in addition to being less costly and require the loss of fewer homes.
However, it believes that extending the northern runway at Heathrow provides a smaller increase in capacity and is “less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective”.
Global, regional and local health impacts of civil aviation emissions
Steve H L Yim, Gideon L Lee, In Hwan Lee, Florian Allroggen, Akshay Ashok, Fabio Caiazzo, Sebastian D Eastham, Robert Malina and Steven R H Barrett
Aviation emissions impact surface air quality at multiple scales—from near-airport pollution peaks associated with airport landing and take off (LTO) emissions, to intercontinental pollution attributable to aircraft cruise emissions. Previous studies have quantified aviation’s air quality impacts around a specific airport, in a specific region, or at the global scale. However, no study has assessed the air quality and human health impacts of aviation, capturing effects on all aforementioned scales. This study uses a multi-scale modeling approach to quantify and monetize the air quality impact of civil aviation emissions, approximating effects of aircraft plume dynamics-related local dispersion (~1 km), near-airport dispersion (~10 km), regional (~1000 km) and global (~10 000 km) scale chemistry and transport. We use concentration-response functions to estimate premature deaths due to population exposure to aviation-attributable PM2.5 and ozone, finding that aviation emissions cause ~16 000 (90% CI: 8300–24 000) premature deaths per year. Of these, LTO emissions contribute a quarter. Our estimate shows that premature deaths due to long-term exposure to aviation-attributable PM2.5 and O3 lead to costs of ~$21 bn per year. We compare these costs to other societal costs of aviation and find that they are on the same order of magnitude as global aviation-attributable climate costs, and one order of magnitude larger than aviation-attributable accident and noise costs.
The paper itself is at