Are Short Flights Polluting Your Neighborhood?

airplane landing photo

Image credit: √oхέƒx™/Flickr

A major air hub, with constant take-offs and landings and dozens of vehicles and large buildings is an obvious source of pollution. These huge airports may be strains of the atmosphere as a whole, but their immediate impact on our local airspace, thanks to mandated buffer zones, is usually fairly small.

Regional and general aviation airports, however, have much smaller buffer zones and, according to a new study, are responsible for much more local air pollution than was previously thought.Looking at a small airport in Southern California that services private planes and corporate jets, researchers found ultrafine pollution particles in surrounding areas in a "significantly elevated" concentration, as much as 10 times more, than that of background pollution levels.

The airport in question was surrounded by dense residential areas, separated only by vary narrow buffer areas. The airport's proximity to the neighborhoods, and the small size it's the buffer areas, allowed high levels of pollutants to spill into residential areas.

Furthermore, pollution in these communities was higher than that in similar neighborhoods adjacent to major highways. Though an elevated concentration of ultrafine and lead particles was present in both areas, the neighborhood next to the airport had levels five to eight times higher than the one next to a highway.

These regional airports tend to service shorter routes that could be easily replaced with trains.

Read more about train travel:
Realizing The Potential of High-Speed Rail: For Climate Protection; Business Productivity; and Security
Trains vs Planes: Is Rail Always the Low Carbon Option?
Air Travel and Climate Change: Take the Train
Is High Speed Rail the Answer?

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