Schiphol, together with other parties in the Dutch aviation sector, is investigating extra measures to further reduce the levels of ultrafine particles at the airport and therefore improve local air quality. Research carried out by the independent institute TNO on behalf of the airport shows that ultrafine particle concentrations of an average of 100,000 to 120,000 particles per cubic centimetre were measured outside the terminal and piers. The median, which has an equal number of higher and lower measurements, is between 44,000 to 68,000 ultrafine particles per cubic centimetre.
The measurements at Schiphol were predominantly taken during the day. Concentrations are therefore not comparable with yearly averages at other airports or cities. In addition, different measuring apparatus and methods were used. To give an idea of another study, an average of up to 100,000 particles per cubic centimetre were measured every 15 minutes on a busy road in the centre of Rotterdam. Annual average concentrations between 10,000 and 80,000 particles per cubic centimetre were measured near roads in European cities.
Improving air quality
The research carried out by TNO is important for employees at the airport. In light of the results of the TNO study, additional measures and an acceleration of measures to further reduce ultrafine particle concentrations are being investigated. The sector is going to investigate the possibility of making ‘sustainable taxiing’ standard procedure at Schiphol by 2030. The steps to make this necessary, including adjustments to infrastructure, processes and technology, are being prepared by Schiphol and various sector partners, including Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL), KLM, Transavia and Corendon.
Schiphol has been investigating ultrafine particle emissions for a while now. In 2019, an ultrafine particles action plan was drawn up by Schiphol together with the aviation sector in order to reduce emissions produced by traffic to and from the airport, at the airport itself and by aircraft. Important aspects of the plan are investments in new fleet, the use of sustainable fuel (SAF) and making the ground operation more sustainable. Schiphol also asked TNO to conduct research into the concentrations of ultrafine particles on Schiphol grounds. The unions and platform staff were asked to provide input. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) made a substantive assesment of the research.
The aviation sector aims to make the ground operation fully emission-free by 2030 at the latest, and therefore significantly reduce ultrafine particles. This will be achieved by using energy more efficiently, electrifying ground equipment, introducing shore power at the gates, looking for alternatives to fossil gas and, where possible, making the switch to renewable energy. Also part of the action plan are studies to increase knowledge and measures to improve air quality.
Research into ultrafine particles
Worldwide, relatively little is known about the impact of different kinds of ultrafine particles on health. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) is conducting research into the impact of ultrafine particles on the health of people living in the vicinity of the airport. They have also recently made a proposal to investigate the health effects of ultrafine particles among platform employees. The sector is currently examining this proposal to see how a study into employee exposure to ultrafine particles and possible health effects can be set up, together with the parties involved.
Background ultrafine particles
2015: exploratory research carried out by RIVM shows that ultrafine particles around Schiphol come from aviation
2017: start of RIVM study into ultrafine particle health risks in the area around Schiphol
2019: Clean Air Agreement signed
2019: interim results ultrafine particle research RIVM: Research into the health effects of short-term exposure to ultrafine particles in the vicinity of Schiphol Airport
2019: presentation of Schiphol’s ultrafine particles action plan
2020: announcement of TNO study into concentrations at Schiphol
September 2021: RIVM proposal: Exploratory study into the feasibility of a health study for Schiphol workers
Start of 2022: Results of RIVM research in the area around Schiphol: health effects of long-term exposure to ultrafine particles and integrated report
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