Air pollution may pose an important but largely overlooked health concern for people living near smaller regional airports, according to a new study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In the new study, Suzanne Paulson and colleagues note that scientists have known for years that aircraft emissions from fuel burned during takeoffs and landings can have a serious impact on air quality near major airports. Aircraft exhaust includes pollutants linked to a variety of health problems.
However, researchers know little about the impact of such emissions at general aviation or regional airports—which are becoming a more important component of the global air transport system, and which tend to be located closer to residential neighborhoods than major airports, the article notes.
The scientists measured a range of air pollutants near a general aviation airport for private planes and corporate jets in Southern California (Santa Monica Airport) in the spring and summer of 2008. They found that emissions of ultrafine particles (UFP) were significantly elevated when compared to background pollution levels.
Levels of these pollutants were up to 10 times higher at a downwind distance from the airport equal to about one football field and as much as 2.5 times higher at distance equal to about six football fields.
Aircraft did not appreciably elevate average levels of black carbon(BC) or particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PBPAH), although spikes in concentration of these pollutants were observed associated with jet takeoffs.
The study suggests that “current land-use practices of reduced buffer areas around local airports may be insufficient.”
Shishan Hu, Scott Fruin, Kathleen Kozawa, Steve Mara, Arthur M. Winer and Suzanne E. Paulson (2009)Aircraft Emission Impacts in a Neighborhood Adjacent to a General Aviation Airport in Southern California. Environ. Sci. Technol., 43 (21), pp 8039–8045 doi: 10.1021/es900975