New King’s College study on Heathrow ultrafine particle air pollution shows it spreads far into London
In a new study, researchers from King’s College London have measured ultrafine particles (UFP) in European cities and detected emissions from airports. Many studies have examined and quantified the levels of larger particles (e.g.PM2.5 – <2.5μm or PM10 – <10μm), but very few have studied UFP (< 0.1 μm). The researchers identified, characterised and quantified the sources UFPs in Barcelona, Helsinki, London, and Zurich between 2007 and 2017. They measured particle and gaseous pollutants at different sites and used a statistical model to identify and quantify the contribution of the different sources of ultrafine particles. They found that London had the highest concentration of UFP compared to other cities. The greatest concentrations of the smallest particles (called nucleation particles) when the wind was blowing from the airport in all cities. This indicates that airports are a major UFP source and that these small particles can travel many kilometres. Traffic emissions contributed the most. So it is confirmed that Heathrow pollution – with very negative health impacts – spreads far into London, many miles away.
Pollution from Heathrow detected in central London
People in European cities are breathing particle pollution from nearby airports as well as traffic finds new research.
3 January 2020
From King’s College London news centre
See the research paper at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041201931832X
Image taken from the research paper showing London with Heathrow pollution
In a study published in Environment International researchers from King’s have, for the first time, measured ultrafine particles (UFP) in European cities and detected emissions from airports.
Many studies have examined and quantified the levels of larger particles (e.g.PM2.5 – <2.5μm or PM10 – <10μm), however very few have studied UFP (< 0.1 μm).
In this study, researchers identified, characterised and quantified the sources UFPs in four European cities (Barcelona, Helsinki, London, and Zurich) between 2007 and 2017. They measured particle and gaseous pollutants at different sites and used a statistical model to identify and quantify the contribution of the different sources of ultrafine particles.
They found that:
London had the highest concentration of UFP compared to other cities.
The greatest concentrations of the smallest particles (called nucleation particles) when the wind was blowing from the airport in all cities. This indicates that airports are a major UFP source and that these small particles can travel many kilometres.
Traffic emissions contributed the most in all four cities ranging from 71% – 94%.
Helsinki was the only city to demonstrate a biogenic source – when particles are formed from emissions from the forests in the region.
The most common sources for pollution particles were traffic and photonucleation for all four cities. Photonucleation is the process of new particles forming from gases in the atmosphere enhanced by the sun’s radiation.
Photonucleation was most prevalent in cities with high solar radiation, such as Barcelona but it was much less in the other cities.
No variation between seasons in London and Zurich however in Barcelona, photonucleation contributed significantly during the summer months.
Dr Ioar Rivas, Research Fellow and author of the study said: “We expected traffic emissions to be an important source of ultrafine particles in cities but we now know that airport emissions, even if located at the outskirts of the city, can travel far enough and reach population on urban areas away from the airport“.
Dr Gary Fuller, Senior Lecturer in Air Pollution Measurement added: “Cities around Europe have policies to reduce airborne particle from the traffic that should also reduce people’s exposure to ultrafine particles, but aircraft emissions are not being addressed in the same way”.
The next steps in this research are to evaluate the effects of the different sources of ultrafine particles on mortality and hospital admissions.
The research team for this project included researchers from: the University of Birmingham, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, IDAEA-CSIC, University of Helsinki, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority, Clarkson University and King Abdulaziz University.
Pollution from Heathrow planes is reaching central London, study shows
By ROSS LYDALL Health Editor (Evening Standard)
3rd January 2020
Pollution from planes using Heathrow airport has been detected in central London, researchers revealed today.
A breakthrough study by King’s College London is the first to find that airports are a major source of ultra-fine particles that are harmful to health.
Results from air quality monitoring stations in north Kensington and in Marylebone Road — about 14 miles from the airport — were used to estimate levels of the particles in the air.
These were greatest when blown in from the airport on a westerly wind.
Ultra-fine particles are produced by fuel burning and are a subset of PM2.5 particles that are most commonly emitted from traffic brakes and tyres.
The smaller the particle, the deeper they can penetrate into the lungs. Ultra-fine particles have been linked to brain cancer.
The King’s study, in Environment International, measured emissions from four European airports — the others were Barcelona, Zurich and Helsinki — between 2007-17.
Heathrow was chosen instead of other airports serving London due to its proximity to the detectors used by the London Air Quality Network.
It had the highest concentration of ultra-fine particles compared with the three continental airports.
Traffic emissions remain the biggest source of ultra-fine particles. At airports, they occur when planes are taxiing into position, flying low and especially when taking off.
While there are EU restrictions on PM2.5 vehicle emissions, the same controls do not exist for aircraft.
Dr Ioar Rivas, author of the study, said: “We expected traffic emissions to be an important source of ultra-fine particles in cities but we now know that airport emissions, even if located at the outskirts of the city, can travel far enough and reach population in urban areas.”
Researchers said PM pollution sources needed to be “disentangled” to create policies to cut emissions. The study will now assess the impact of particles on hospital admissions and mortality.
Dr Gary Fuller, senior lecturer in air pollution measurement at King’s, said: “Cities around Europe have policies to reduce airborne particles from traffic…but aircraft emissions are not being addressed in the same way.”
Communities around Sea-Tac Airport exposed to a unique mix of air pollution associated with aircraft – more ultra-fine particles are produced by aircraft than road traffic
Seattle-Tacoma Airport, USA had about 438,000 flights in 2018. Communities under flight paths and downwind of the airport are exposed to air pollution from the aircraft. Now research from the University of Washington shows that this includes a type of ultra-fine particle pollution, less than 0.1 micron in diameter, distinctly associated with aircraft. A 2-year study “MOV-UP”) looked at air pollution within 10 miles of the airport, and collected air samples at numerous locations between 2018 and 2019. The researchers developed a new method to distinguish between ultra-fine particle pollution from jet traffic and pollution from other sources such as road vehicles, in the particle size and mixture of particles emitted. They found that communities under the flight paths near the airport are exposed to higher proportions of smaller-sized, ‘ultra-ultrafine’ pollution particles, between 0.01 to 0.02 microns in diameter, and over a larger area compared to pollution particles associated with roads. The tiny particles get deep into the lungs, and can penetrate tissues around the body, potentially causing illness, including cancers. Knowing the different signature of ultra-fine particles from aviation will enable local authorities to detect the pollution from aircraft themselves.
Air pollution nanoparticles (from road vehicles and aircraft) now linked to higher risk of brain cancer
New research has now linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer. The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the cancer. Previous work has shown that nanoparticles can get into the brain and that they can carry carcinogenic chemicals. Aircraft also produce nanoparticles that spread downwind of airports, and are also emitted into the atmosphere during flight – especially take-off and landing. Higher levels of the air pollution are related to slightly higher rates of brain cancer. The numbers per 100,000 are not huge, but add up when large populations are exposed to road traffic etc. Brain cancers are hard to treat and often fatal. As nanoparticles are so tiny, they can get into almost every organ. Air pollution has also been linked to other effects on the brain, including reductions in intelligence, more dementia and mental health problems in both adults and children. The WHO says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency”. Airport expansion does not help – due to road transport, plus the planes themselves, and airport vehicles.
Research shows ultrafine particles from aircraft in the vicinity of Schiphol Airport negatively affect health
A thorough study of 191 primary school children who live near Schiphol Airport, in the Netherlands, shows that high concentrations of ultra-fine particles from aircraft can affect health seriously. The research showed that when the wind blows in the ‘wrong’ direction children with respiratory complaints suffer more and use more medication. Complaints include shortness of breath and wheezing. These are the conclusions of new research by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), in collaboration with Utrecht University and the Academic Medical Centre (AMC). There were 3 sub-studies: a study of 191 primary school children in residential areas near Schiphol, a study of 21 healthy adults immediately adjacent to Schiphol, and a laboratory study with lung cells. Such extensive research on ultrafine particles and health has never been carried out around airports before. The findings should alarm everybody responsible for the tremendous worldwide growth of aviation. There are no indications that the health effects of air traffic are different from those of road traffic. The study is part of a long-term study of the RIVM. In 2020 and 2021 they will research the effects of long-term exposure to ultra-fine particles from air traffic.