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Pollution from aviation emissions has significant health impacts

11th August, 2015

A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that long term exposure to aviation related ozone and fine particulates (specifically PM2.5, the smallest particles) contributes to 16,000 premature deaths a year worldwide, costing an estimated $21 billion a year.

The study considered the health impact of near airport, regional and global emissions, estimating that ‘cruise altitude’ emissions were the most significant contributor to health impacts world-wide. However, emissions from the landing and take off aircraft cycle, were found to have significant pollution related health impacts for communities living closest to airports, contributing to 49% of the premature deaths associated with aircraft emissions in Europe.

The study considered that the costs of the pollutants studied were of a similar magnitude to the costs associated with CO2 emissions.

The findings of the study could have important implications for how aviation biofuels are assessed in the future, according to the report’s authors, particularly if they increase or reduce ozone and particulate pollutants.

AEF’s view

This study highlights that aviation related emissions of particulates and ozone contribute to poor health, and not just for those people living close to the airport. This should be considered in the health impact assessment and economic assessment of any expansion proposal.

For more information, see the related Green Air Online article.

Download: Yim et al. (2015) Global, regional and local health impacts of civil aviation emissions