Severe health risks linked to jet engine emissions

Hypertension, diabetes, dementia: these are the risks linked to exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP) emitted by aircraft jet engines

A recent study commissioned by Transport & Environment (T&E) has highlighted the severe health risks associated with exposure to ultrafine particles (UFPs) emitted by jet engines. According to the research, these particles may be linked to thousands of cases of hypertension, diabetes, and dementia across Europe.

Ultrafine particles: a growing concern

Ultrafine particles, with diameters less than 0.1 micrometers, are particularly concerning due to their ability to penetrate deeply into the human body. Studies have shown that UFPs can be found in the blood, brain, and even the placenta. However, research on these effects remains limited and often inconclusive.

Study findings: health impact in Europe

The study utilized data from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to estimate the health effects of UFPs in Europe. It revealed that exposure to these particles could be linked to up to 280,000 cases of hypertension, 330,000 cases of diabetes, and 18,000 cases of dementia across the continent. More than 10% of the European population, or 52 million people, live within a 12.4-mile radius of the 32 busiest airports, making them particularly vulnerable.

Mitigating the problem

Currently, there are no specific regulations on safe levels of UFPs in the air, despite the World Health Organization identifying these particles as a growing concern over 15 years ago.

Carlos López de la Osa, T&E’s aviation technical manager, emphasizes that jet engines emit more UFPs than any other type of engine, particularly affecting those living or working near airports. For example, around 8 million people in Paris live near Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.

Solutions to reduce UFP pollution do exist. Using higher-quality fuels can reduce emissions by 70%. The hydrotreatment process, used for decades to remove sulfur from car and ship fuels, could also be applied to aviation fuels at a cost of less than two cents per gallon.

Reducing air traffic, limiting the growth of the aviation industry, and using sustainable aviation fuels and emerging zero-emission technologies are other strategies to tackle this issue.

Source: Transport & Environment

The article draws upon studies published and recommendations from international institutions and/or experts. We do not make claims in the medical-scientific field and report the facts as they are. Sources are indicated at the end of each article.
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