Air Quality

News about aviation and air quality

AEF discussion paper on what – on air pollution – needs to be in UK’s forthcoming “Aviation Strategy”

The Aviation Environment Federation have produced a series of discussion papers, on environmental aspects of aviation policy that need to be properly dealt with in the government's forthcoming new "Aviation Strategy"  consultation, and then an Aviation White Paper in 2019. There are papers on noise and carbon emissions, and now one on air pollution. The AEF says the UK needs clarity on how airport expansion can be achieved keeping to air pollution commitments. We need better information on pollution that comes from planes, outside the "landing and take off cycle", which only covers planes up to 3,000 feet altitude. We also need better mapping of where the air pollution is, around airports, showing legal limit values and WHO maximum levels for pollutants. There should be clarity on how air pollutants will increase, if the number of flights at an airport increase, and how this affects the "National Emissions Ceiling Directive" (NECD) limit values.  AEF says a lot more clarity is needed, on whether it is true most of the air pollution around airports comes from road vehicles (associated with the airport or not) and how much is from  planes themselves. There has been no national review of airport air pollution since 2003, for airports other than Heathrow.

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Response by Government to PQ on Heathrow road traffic indicates a 29% increase with a 3rd runway

In a Parliamentary Question by Andy Slaughter (MP for Hammersmith), he asked the Secretary of State for Transport, "what assessment he has made of the number of (a) light goods vehicles, (b) heavy goods vehicles and (c) private cars that access Heathrow airport on a daily basis." The reply by Jesse Norman, Minister of State at the DfT, said the figures for goods vehicles come from the Airports Commission [now fairly out of date] and the other figures for highway and public transport trips are from an October 2017 DfT document. Heathrow has often said there would be no more vehicles on the roads with a 3rd runway than currently. But the DfT figures indicate the trips by passengers and employees, by cars and taxis,  would be around 60 million in 2030 with no new runway, and about 77 million in 2030 with a 3rd runway. The numbers would be about 66 million by 2050, with no new runway; and about 85 million with a 3rd runway.  ie. a massive rise of around 29% above the number with no new runway, both in 2030 and in 2050. Mr Norman said, to try to overcome this difficulty,  "it will be for an applicant for development consent for the Heathrow Northwest runway scheme to submit a surface access strategy to the Planning Inspectorate alongside their application."

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Cabbies say Heathrow does not care about air pollution, as they announce sky high taxi electric charging price

Heathrow has to try and get air pollution levels down, as they are already breaching legal limits. With a 3rd runway, they would only get worse. Heathrow has pledged, and tried to persuade the government, that it will do all it can to keep pollution levels down, and there will be (very, very hard to believe ...) "no more" vehicles on the roads round Heathrow, associated with the airport, than now. One of the things Heathrow hopes will help is use of more electric vehicles, lowering local pollution. So one might have thought they would be keen to encourage taxis to use electricity as much as possible, to make their air pollution figures look better. Sure enough, there are now many electric charging points. But belatedly Heathrow has now announced that they will charge a very high price (31p per kW) for this charging. This is far higher than plug-in on street Polar for as little as 0.09p per KW, or even dedicated Transport for London taxi chargers at 22p per KW. Taxi drivers are saying they will not pay the 31p, and will instead use the petrol option on their hybrids for the trip back into London. By contrast, Gatwick has 8 charging points in short stay car parks, with free electricity, and free parking for up to 4 hours for this.

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New map reveals – Slough and Windsor will be at the heart of pollution caused by Heathrow expansion

Slough Borough Council has been told it must protect its residents after it was revealed the town would be right in the epicentre of increased noise and air pollution, if a 3rd Heathrow runway is built.  The CAA map shows that Slough and Windsor will be at the heart of increased pollution, and community groups are very upset. The Colnbrook Community Association (CCA) said it was time for Slough Borough Council to ‘wake up and protect our residents’ following the publication. Slough Borough Council does not criticise Heathrow, as it hopes to get some benefits from the expansion, if it never complains. The Council says:  “We have been vigorously defending the local community not least in our cabinet discussions about road diversions through Colnbrook and securing a green envelope around Colnbrook."  The quality of life for many residents will be diminished by the 3rd runway, regardless of some businesses making more money. CCA said: “The trouble is that gullible Local Authorities, Councillors, MP’s and media peeps swallow this misinformation and accept it as truth. Residents know it’s fake news; Heathrow’s PR knows it’s fake news (they make it up); media knows its fake news – but it doesn’t make headlines.”

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Campaigners fighting Gatwick expansion issue “State of Emergency” for the Sussex countryside

CPRE Sussex has taken the unprecedented step of declaring a “Countryside State of Emergency” in response to Gatwick Airport’s new expansion ‘Master Plan’, published on October 18th.  The Master Plan details the airport’s proposal to expand from one to potentially three runways. A 2nd runway created from Gatwick’s existing emergency runway could result in an estimated 14 million extra passengers travelling through Sussex to/from the airport every year. A 3rd runway to the south - on the "safeguarded" land - would add millions more passengers and require “significant changes to the airport and surrounding roads”.  “This plan would have a devastating impact on our countryside,” says CPRE Sussex Chair, David Johnson. “It would change the landscape and rural character of Sussex forever - scaring our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and deeply damaging the tranquillity and ecology of our National Park.” He commented: "It would be unthinkable to allow Gatwick to urbanise Sussex in this way, so we will be joining with all other community and conservation groups to oppose these plans”. We need to give our National Parks and AONBs more, and better protection - not risk ruining them with the impacts of developing an airport about the size Heathrow is now. 

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Teddington TAG shows London Assembly data proves Heathrow NOx travels far, far away from the airport (not just Grayling’s “2km”)

The Airports Commission had, as its study area for the effects of Heathrow expansion, an area of just 2 kilometres from the boundary of the expanded airport. Chris Grayling wrote to the Chair of the Transport Committee on the 23rd February 2018 saying that this area "captures over 98% of additional emissions that could occur from expansion". Teddington TAG asks if this figure of 98% emissions captured within 2 km of the boundary is true. They located air pollution data from the London Assembly, available by Borough. It apportions how much of the NOx in different areas is from vehicles, aviation and other sources. This shows that in Richmond Old Deer Park, according to the Data Apportionment Tool, about 77% of the NOx is from aviation. In Kew / North Sheen, 11km from touch-down, about 57% is from aviation.  At Putney, which is under the flight path but is over 15 km from touch-down at Heathrow, about 33% of the NOx is from aviation. Putney is worse off than Kew as total emissions are greater. And all that is just from 2 runways! Aviation apportionment readings stretch back to Clapham Junction and beyond. So why did Grayling tell the Transport Committee that 98% was within 2km.  Ignorance of the facts? Failure to be properly informed?

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Launch of “Stay Grounded” network – organisations around the world opposing unsustainable aviation/airport expansion

The Stay Grounded network has been officially launched. It now has over 130 signatories, (including the No 3rd Runway Coalition, and others in the UK) and more than 80 member organisations. Stay Grounded aims to reduce the environmentally and socially damaging impact of aviation, by stopping its fast rate of expansion across the world. The industry has privileged status in many ways, including its out-of-control increasing carbon emissions. The Stay Grounded network has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for a transition towards a transport system that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable. Many non-violent actions took place in countries around the world, in a recent week of action. These were directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading not only to rising CO2 emissions, but also noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands.  Around the world there are about 1200 airports planned to be built or being expanded. Stay grounded will also highlight the industry’s inadequate “greenwashing” strategies, which will lead to increasing pressure on ecosystems, local farming communities, and indigenous peoples, particularly in the Global South.

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Air pollution by NOx linked to much greater risk of dementia

Research published in the BMJ indicates there is an increase in the chance of developing dementia. About 131,000 patients in London aged between 50 and 79 were followed for 7 years, with air pollution exposure estimated by post code. People over 50 in areas with the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air showed a 40% greater risk of developing dementia than those with the least NOx pollution, according to data from London. The observational study cannot establish that air pollution was a direct cause of the dementia cases, but the link between higher pollution and higher levels of dementia diagnosis could not be explained by other factors known to raise risks of the disease.  Air pollution has already been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory disease, but this is one of the first studies to examine links with neurodegenerative illness.  It is possible that perhaps 60,000 of the total 850,000 dementia cases in the UK may be made worse by air pollution.  This adds to the body of research on the wide-ranging effects of air pollution, including evidence that particles of pollutants can cross the placenta - an evidence from  China of a “huge” reduction in intelligence associated with breathing dirty air, equivalent to losing a year’s education.

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Air pollution particles found in mothers’ placentas

Scientists have found the first evidence that particles of air pollution travel through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas. Toxic air is already strongly linked to harm in foetuses but how the damage is done is unknown. The new study, involving mothers living in London, UK, revealed sooty particles in the placentas of each of their babies and researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too. A series of previous studies have shown that air pollution significantly increases the risk of premature birth and of low birth weight, leading to lifelong damage to health. A large study of more than 500,000 births in London, published in December, confirmed the link and led doctors to say that the implications for many millions of women in polluted cities around the world are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”. Scientists are increasingly finding that air pollution results in health problems far beyond the lungs. In August, research revealed that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, while in 2016 toxic nanoparticles from air pollution were discovered in human brains.

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Data shows the NOx produced by Heathrow planes is over double that produced by road vehicles

There is a widely held belief that Heathrow's NO2 air pollution is largely due to road vehicles, and as long as measures can be taken to reduce these a bit, then a 3rd runway could be allowed. However, research indicates that the aircraft are producing even more NOx than the road vehicles, and there is far less that can be done to cut these emissions. Indeed, if there were to be almost 50% more Heathrow flights, the amount of NOx generated by the aircraft alone would mean a massive increase locally. That is not taking into account all the extra road traffic that would inevitably be generated by a larger Heathrow, including businesses etc that locate near the airport and all their traffic. The 2013 figures from a study for Heathrow, by Ricardo-AEA Ltd show the amount of NOx emitted from planes up to 1000 metres altitude was 2761 tonnes NOx/ year, and 1524 tonnes from aircraft on the ground (ie a total of 4285 tonnes/ year). Also 274 tonnes/year from other airport sources. Then 350 tonnes/year from Heathrow associated trips on main roads in a 11km x 11km area, and 1661 tonnes/ year from non-Heathrow associated traffic in that 11x11km area. (ie. a total of 2011 for all road traffic). So the amount from planes is way over twice the amount from road vehicles. And that ignores the NOx from planes in the wider area, over 1000 metres altitude.

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