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European airport pollution threatens health of 52M people: NGO

PARIS (AFP) – High concentrations of tiny particles released when aviation jet fuel is burnt pose a health risk to 52 million people living around Europe’s busiest airports, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Transport and Environment (T&E) warned yesterday.

Ultrafine particles (UFPs), which are approximately 1,000 times smaller than a human hair, are released during a plane’s takeoff and landing.

Their minuscule size means UFPs easily penetrate human tissues, with growing evidence these particles are harmful to people’s health.

Yet UFPs remain largely unregulated.

“Tens of millions of Europeans are exposed to increased health risks due to aviation UFPs,” said T&E in a report.

“Fortunately, reducing air traffic and improving jet fuel quality can mitigate the problem in the short term, with additional climate benefits,” the NGO said, calling for better monitoring and UFP reduction targets.

The Brussels-based NGO analysed UFP concentration levels around Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport based on data collected by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands (RIVM).

A person walks at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. PHOTO: AFP