Airport Pollution

The global demand for air travel has increased dramatically during the last 50 years and this trend appears set to continue with UK passenger figures alone predicted to rise to an estimated 464 million by 2030.

Alongside the increasing demand for air travel are concerns over the potential impacts of atmospheric emissions of particulate matter (PM) on health and the environment. There are numerous potential sources of PM within the airport environment including aircraft; vehicles; ground support equipment and buildings.

In order to fully investigate the potential problems it is important to be able to identify distinctive and characteristic particulate ‘fingerprints’ which would facilitate source attribution. However, the identification of such fingerprints has remained elusive to date and as such remains a research priority for the aviation industry.

In some exciting and innovative research, Sue Jones is using a range of techniques including environmental magnetism, geochemical analysis and scanning electron microscopy in an attempt to distinguish the particulate matter derived from various sources in the airport environment.

Working in collaboration with British Airways, Flybe, Manchester International Airport and London Heathrow Airport, a range of contemporary particulate samples have been collected from different sources, alongside a detailed programme of environmental sampling at Manchester International Airport.

Initial results are very encouraging and indicate that the atmospheric dusts derived from different contemporary sources and processes display very different and distinctive characteristics.