Research into effects of ultra-fine particles completed

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has investigated the health effects of ultra-fine particles. This research took place in the Schiphol region and followed up on a previous preliminary study into the health risks posed by ultra-fine particles generated by the aviation industry.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol attaches great importance to RIVM research. As quality of life is one of the airport's spearheads, the insights gained from the research can help to improve this aspect for local residents and airport employees.

Results of RIVM research

The research found that exposure to elevated concentrations of ultra-fine particles can lead to a short-term reduction in lung and/or heart function. According to RIVM, these effects are on average minor and do not necessarily cause health problems directly. The effects can be observed for ultra-fine particles emitted by aircraft and derived from other sources such as motor vehicles. No evidence was found to suggest that the ultra-fine particles from aircraft have a different effect than those produced by vehicles.

The contribution from air traffic to the measured concentrations of ultra-fine particles ranged from approximately 50% at a distance of 200 metres from the runway to about 25% at a 5-kilometre distance. Amounts of ultra-fine particles in the direct vicinity depend upon the direction of the wind. If the wind is coming from the direction of Schiphol or a nearby motorway, the concentration is likely to be higher than when the wind is blowing from another direction.

Action plan to reduce ultra-fine particles

RIVM expects to have greater insight into the possible long-term effects by 2021. In the meantime, Schiphol is working on an action plan to reduce emissions of ultra-fine particles. It hopes to formulate this plan in collaboration with airlines as well as other stakeholders involved and have it ready by the end of 2019.

Lowering fuel consumption and CO2 emissions often goes hand in hand with a reduction of ultra-fine particles. Partly because of this reason, the airport promotes initiatives that seek to reduce fuel consumption and make use of clean fuels. For example, the Netherlands will be home to a biokerosene plant and a synthetic kerosene installation. In the long run, these initiatives could lead to a substantial reduction in emissions of ultra-fine particles.