A review of health effects associated with exposure to jet engine emissions in and around airports

Background

Airport personnel are at risk of occupational exposure to jet engine emissions, which similarly to diesel exhaust emissions include volatile organic compounds and particulate matter consisting of an inorganic carbon core with associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals. Diesel exhaust is classified as carcinogenic and the particulate fraction has in itself been linked to several adverse health effects including cancer.

Photo of Alouette III No 196 showing soiling of the tail boom with soot from exhaust gasses.
Method

In this review, we summarize the available scientific literature covering human health effects of exposure to airport emissions, both in occupational settings and for residents living close to airports. We also report the findings from the limited scientific mechanistic studies of jet engine emissions in animal and cell models.

Beechcraft 200 Super King Air No 240 showing soiling of the engine panels with soot from exhaust gasses.
Results

Jet engine emissions contain large amounts of nano-sized particles, which are particularly prone to reach the lower airways upon inhalation. Size of particles and emission levels depend on type of aircraft, engine conditions, and fuel type, as well as on operation modes. Exposure to jet engine emissions is reported to be associated with biomarkers of exposure as well as biomarkers of effect among airport personnel, especially in ground-support functions. Proximity to running jet engines or to the airport as such for residential areas is associated with increased exposure and with increased risk of disease, increased hospital admissions and self-reported lung symptoms.

Conclusion

We conclude that though the literature is scarce and with low consistency in methods and measured biomarkers, there is evidence that jet engine emissions have physicochemical properties similar to diesel exhaust particles, and that exposure to jet engine emissions is associated with similar adverse health effects as exposure to diesel exhaust particles and other traffic emissions.

Read full article journal at BMC

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The layout of the Irish Air Corps base at Casement Aerodrome ensures that aircraft exhaust gasses are blown over populated sections of the airbase when winds are from the south, south east or south west. This includes hangars, offices, workshops and living in accommodation such as the apprentice hostel and married quarters. Calm weather also creates conditions where exhaust gasses linger in higher concentrations.

This results in all Irish Air Corps personnel (commissioned, enlisted, civilian & living-in family) being exposed to emissions from idling aircraft engines, emissions that are known to cause harm.

In the mid 1990s a study of air pollution adjacent to the ramp area at Baldonnel was commissioned. This report relating to this study has gone missing. 

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests increased prevalence of occupational asthma & adult onset asthma amongst serving & former personnel who served in Baldonnel or Gormanston aerodromes. 
  • Older gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
  • Idling gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
Below are some of the gas turbine powered Air Corps aircraft that were powered by elderly engine designs.
AircraftRetiredEngine FamilyFirst Run
Alouette III2007Turbomeca Artouste1947
Fouga Magister1999Turbomeca Marboré1951
Gazelle2005Turbomeca Astazou1957
King Air 2002009Pratt & Whitney Canada PT61960
Dauphin II2005Turbomeca Arriel1974

DELAY – DENY – DIE

One thought on “A review of health effects associated with exposure to jet engine emissions in and around airports”

  1. Well there he was tonight, the former Defence Minister Simon Coveney taking advantage of the facilities at Baldonnel with a well rehearsed RTE 6pm News interview on the Peri Track and with a backdrop of Helicopters, Aeroplane and Air Trafic Control Tower and not a pesky airman in sight.
    What more could he wish for?

    Then he started talking and talking and talking and de poor interviewer couldn’t get a word in edgeways. In many ways, he reminded me of the chatterbox child who has rehearsed his speel and he’s going to get it all out, come hell or high water.

    And then amongst all the drivel there it was, “the pearl in the oyster” when he said and I quote
    “VICTIMS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PURSUE JUSTICE”

    and as he was quite pleased with himself, didn’t he repeat it all over again.
    “VICTIMS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PURSUE JUSTICE”

    Despite the irony, who on this forum could argue with that?

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