Health Burdens of Air Pollution from Aeroplanes

In May 2012 the World Health Organization (WHO) classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic in humans. In the same year, Gatwick launched it’s ‘Fly Quiet and Clean’ programme even though jet fuel is a type of diesel fuel. Planes use one ton of Kerosene just to take off or land.

One single long haul flight produces about the same emissions as 125,000 family cars driving for an entire year. Despite its scale of use, kerosene contains numerous highly toxic and biohazardous additives: anti-static agents, corrosion inhibitors, and other chemicals for jet engines. Burning jet fuel releases a huge quantity of highly toxic compounds.

Communities within 25 miles of an airport tend to bear the brunt of emissions, suffering the highest concentrations of substances like benzene, toluene, xylene, nitrosamines, benzopyrene as well as lead, much of which is loaded onto ultra-fine particulates of soot. When the aircraft trails you can sometimes see on a sunny day are dispersed into the atmosphere, they combine with pollution from road transport and other industries.

When it rains, those chemicals in the air will enter the water supply and the soil, the vegetation of farms and gardens.Health damage from kerosene bi-products may occur after short-term as well as long-term exposure.

Burnt jet fuel products lodge in the lungs and tend to affect the heart and circulatory system causing high blood pressure, heart attacks, or strokes. In the lungs, they cause asthma, chronic lung diseases and lung cancer. They cause immune system deficiency, in turn increasing the risk of other types of cancer. For example, they cause significantly higher risk of breast cancer for women and infant mortality. But we are only just beginning to understand the extent of the effects of breathing in these substances. The more recent the research study, the more evident the sheer enormity of the hazard to health becomes.

Science cannot at present tell us exactly how many planes it takes to fly over our heads before we suffer health effects directly. Nevertheless, this does not affect the certainty that Public Health is effected by the air pollution problem caused by unfettered expansion of aviation and on a worldwide scale. 

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