Airport pollution proven to affect lung function of those near airports

A trial in the Netherlands has found that young healthy people who exercised outside an airport in Amsterdam had altered lung and heart function as a result of ultrafine particles.

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, and Utrecht University conducted an experiment outside Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and concluded that breathing in ultrafine particulates results in reduced lung function and alters heart rhythms in healthy subjects.

Over the period of seven months, scientists carried out research in a lorry trailer parked adjacent to a runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with young healthy participants who would use exercise bikes, monitored by air pollution measurement equipment. 21 different subjects were observed, breathing ambient air from the airport environment.

The purpose of this investigation was to determine what health impacts there would be from breathing particulate matter produced from aircraft engines. Increasingly, evidence has suggested that these particles are likely to spread tens of kilometres downwind from an airport.

A study by King’s College London found pollution from Heathrow detected in central London. This would mean millions people may be affected by these findings.

Whilst the experiment at Schipol found that the otherwise young and healthy subjects had suffered reduced lung function and changes to heart rhythms as a result of breathing the ultrafine particles emitted from aircraft engines, it is clear that more studies are urgently required to conclude what the long-term health effects of airport pollution are.