Myths and Facts of Aviation Pollution
Q. What air filters are effective for removing Aircraft Pollution?
A. Only a whole house electrostatic filter. HEPA filters only remove particles larger than 3 microns and most Aircraft emissions are less than 1 micron. Click here for a study.
Airports and aircraft cause many types of air pollution at many different elevations and at considerable distances.
Of foremost concern to those living and working even as far as many miles from an airport or under aircraft flight tracks are these: hazardous and toxic air emissions.
Aircraft fly over head emitting these toxic compounds in massive amounts and these emissions are spread generally over an area 12 miles long, 12 miles wide on take-off, 12 - 6 miles on landing, (per runway and/or flight track).
The area heavily contaminated by a light to medium traffic two runway airport is approximately 12 miles around the field and 20 miles or more downwind. A single runway equipped airport with light to medium traffic contaminates an area about 6 miles around the field and 20 downwind. OHare Airport has seven runways; to date, an airport thoroughgoing study has never been undertaken.
Newer aircraft, even though emissions go relatively unseen, could be at least as bad at polluting as older aircraft for many reasons including production of smaller particulate matter, with different combustion processes, different formulations in fuel, etc.
Thus, the number of people exposed to aviation pollutants and who are affected in an airports vicinity can be immense. In Chicago, for instance, a medical doctor who teaches clinical medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Public Medicine, estimated that as many as 5-million people's health could be affected as a result of just one airport, OHare. There are four major airports located in the Chicago area. Similar conditions exist in other communities, nationally.
The United Nations has released a
report stating that aviation is responsible for over half of the pollution
caused by transportation. In comparison to ground transportation with its
millions upon millions of vehicles, there are surprisingly few aircraft (34,444
US-civil, 5,778 US-commercial). Thus, one can only imagine the massive amounts
of pollution they emit. A loaded jumbo 747, for instance, uses tens of thousands
of pounds of fuel on merely take-off.
The chemicals used to deice aircraft are ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, both deadly substances in small quantities. Ethylene glycol causes central nervous depression and kidney and liver damage; propylene glycol, when used by the airports with anticorrosion chemicals, is just as toxic!
The lethal dose in adults is 1.4 ml or 3.3 fl. No studies have been done on its effects on humans. However, each winter large amounts of fish and wildlife are poisoned to death by aircraft deicing chemicals.
Additional pollutants, including fuels and other toxic substances, are also
washed off the planes during deicing procedures. Currently, OHare has no
method of recycling deicing fluids. Instead, these pollutants are
released into the surrounding environment.