UK airports’ rush to expand are bad news for our health and lives, an air pollution scientist has warned.
Dr Gary Fuller, senior lecturer in air quality measurement, said airports are a “large source” of ultrafine particles, which put millions across UK and European cities at risk of death and several health issues.
In a piece for The Guardian, Fuller said pre-pandemic travel levels are coming back, noticeable through white lines across the sky which indicate ultrafine particles from aircraft engines.
‘Airports are a large source’
“Ultrafine particles are not just a problem in the skies above us. Airports are a large source,” he wrote.
According to his research, small particles 500 metres downwind of Gatwick Airport were more numerous than those at the kerb of London’s busiest roads.
“They mostly came from aircraft during takeoff and landing, but traffic, car parks and a large catering facility used to cook airline food all added to the problem,” he said.
Fuller warned ultrafine particles can travel far from airports – for example, he found the ones from Heathrow in big areas of west London, and over 20km away in the city centre.
Health problems linked to ultrafine particles
This is bad news based on 75 studies revealed by the World Health Organisation and the Dutch Health Council last year, linking the particles to lung inflammation, blood pressure and heart problems and foetal growth.
And, a study carried out by Fuller a decade ago matched the proportion of people dying or needing hospital support because of heart issues with the tiny particles.
His new article comes as Bristol airport’s expansion has been approved this month and Gatwick is applying to expand as well – prompting him to warn ultrafine particles are excluded from environmental reports, despite growing air pollution “for decades to come”.
Government of ‘climate delay’
Miliband’s comments come amid eight cross-party groups of MPs urging the government to listen to a vast majority of parliamentarians and act to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
The groups, which focus on climate change, net zero, clean air and fuel poverty, wrote a letter to The Guardian in which they stressed only a “small minority” of MPs are not “fully behind net zero”.
“Delaying action will cost the country more,” they wrote.
It comes as, earlier this week, the newspaper report the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of 19 Tories was accused of trying to prevent the government from environmental action by linking it to rising prices and creating a “culture war” narrative around net zero.
But Green party MP Caroline Lucas warned prime minister Boris Johnson “will do whatever he thinks is necessary to stay in office, including dumping climate pledges if it will buy him support from rightwing Tory MPs.”