Environmental Impacts of Aviation
Noise and Air Quality
Availability Of Scientific Study
The aviation industry in the US was deregulated in the 1970's with the Airline Deregulation Act. To jumpstart the industry environmental regulations were lifted and funding was cut to programs analysing the health and environmental impacts of aviation. This was done to release any barriers to growth. A distinct lack of public scientific study now exists on the impacts of aviation in the United States.
Since the 1970's the airline industry has experienced explosive growth, yet the commercial aviation industry continues to struggle to remain profitable. This in turn keeps lawmakers from enacting legislation, which will require and fund studies on the impacts, curb growth and reassess aviation's role in transportation policy. According to the Department of Transportation in 2007, up to a tripling of passengers, operations and cargo by 2025 is predicted. Due to a legislative loophole, the DOT is not actually required to study how this massive increase in growth will impact the health, environment or aviation safety.
To determine the actual effects of jet engine noise and emissions, we must review the work produced prior to deregulation of the industry and look to studies commissioned by non-profit health and environmental organizations, for-profit environmental consultants, universities, foreign governments and multinational environmental coalitions.
Several governmental programs do exist to analyze the environmental impacts of noise and emissions, however funding for noise and air quality study is minimal and many do not make their studies available to the public.
In 1996 the NRDC published a landmark study on the effects of aircraft emissions on air quality however funding was later cut for these programs. Unfortunately due to the harsh economic situation and legislative setbacks from prior administrations environmental organizations are struggling in their role to assist in this area. Conservationists concerned about immediate impacts of aviation noise and emissions in their communities are working with non-profit networks, universities, and their local governments to commission studies. Others are working with environmental scientists to produce white papers and meta data studies.
The Department of Defense has commissioned several studies on aviation impacts however unique differences exist between commercial, general and military aircraft. Aircraft engine manufacturers are reluctant to share their studies on emissions and noise however Boeing has done an impressive job in making public aircraft noise profiles as well as noise mitigation programs across the world.
Until legislation is enacted and funding sources flow into public and private programs to study the impacts, protecting the environment falls upon the shoulders of local communities, and environmental organizations with resourceful political action committees and unfortunately litigious action against aviation manufactures, airports and the FAA.
In 2000 the FAA created Categorical Exclusions on air quality impacts to Human Health for aircraft flying above 3000 feet. The office of Environment & Energy made it legal to exempt the FAA from following environmental law which seeks to understand and mitigate human health impacts. This should be reexamined in light of finding by the EPA, DOD, ICAO, World Health Organization, Oxford, NRDC, NASA,
References & Further reading
Human Health Risk Assessment
Air Quality Impacts on Human Health
According to the European Commission, emissions from aircraft raises the risk for stroke, coronary heart disease and increased blood pressure. More then 200 compounds including 147 VOCs, 15 carbonyl compounds, and 15 PAHs and 4 criteria pollutants including CO, SO2, NOx, and PM10 are known to be present in petroleum combustion based jet engines. 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, acrolein are cancer causing.
Aircraft emissions impact local air quality at ground level according to the ICAO which in turn exact a quantifiable risk to human health. Larry West, an environmentalist hired by the FAA detailed some of the health effects that they recognize. "Aircraft emissions contribute to certain health risks."
According to congressional testimony provided by Crowley, "pollution produced by LaGuardia Airport is a significant contributor to the overall asthma rates in the communities surrounding the airport. According to the American Lung Association's estimates of the prevalence of lung disease, there are 80,105 adults with asthma in Queens and there are 27,588 kids with asthma." The U.S. Citizens Aviation Watch Association has cited several studies linking pollutants common around airports--such as diesel exhaust, carbon monoxide and leaked chemicals--to cancer, asthma, liver damage, lung disease, lymphoma, myeloid leukemia, and depression.
Representative health effects of air pollutants
By Julie Steenhuysen
Tiny particles of air pollution -- less than one tenth the width of a human hair -- can trigger clotting in the blood, U.S. researchers said on Thursday in a finding that helps explain how air pollution causes heart attacks and strokes.
Large population studies have shown pollution from the exhaust of trucks, buses and coal-burning factories increases the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes. But researchers have not understood how these microscopic particles actually kill people.
"We now know how the inflammation in the lungs caused by air pollutants leads to death from cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Gokhan Mutlu of Northwestern University in Chicago, who studied the effects of air pollution in mice.
Lungs inflamed by pollution secrete interleukin-6, an immune system compound that sparks inflammation and has been shown to make blood more likely to clot.
Mutlu got a clue about the clotting issue two years ago when he was studying the effects of air pollution on heart failure in mice. Mice who had been exposed to pollution bled significantly less.
Mice exposed to pollution showed a 15-fold increase in interleukin-6 just 24 hours later. That time frame is important because some studies have shown a spike in air pollution can boost heart attacks with 24 hours.
He said most people understand that high levels of air pollution can make lung diseases such as asthma worse.
"The same thing is not known for patients with coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure," Mutlu said. "I think we need to increase the awareness of this link among those individuals."
References & Further reading
Noise Impacts on Human Health
The general public associates noise with nuisance, however quantifieable health risks are involved, proving the myth "What you don't see can't hurt you"
The World Health Organization commissioned a landmark study in 2007 on the Noise impacts to human health which challenged the uneducated opinion that aviation noise is only a nuisance. Several landmark studies have been conducted by renowed scholars quantifying the effects of noise on human health. Several studies and articles are included below.
Efforts are underway by various health organizations to reassess the FAA's measures of noise. DNL averaging used by NASA and the FAA is thought to be an outdated measure inadequately assessing noise impact and don't take into consideration the latest findings.
Publications in Science based Journals
References & Further reading
Below is a slide from a research group at Berkley.
*1. Based on FLYING OFF COURSE: Environmental Impacts of America's Airports, report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
US EPA 1999 STUDY-
Projected growth in commercial aircraft & emissions factors at Metro New York Airports
(EWR, LGA, JFK)
|(short tons/year) Variable Mixing Height||1990||2010||% increase|
|Increase in landing Takeoffs (LTO)||383,206||452,950||18%|
|Volatile Organic Compounds||3,025||4,839||60%|
NASA Fact Book on Aviation Emissions:
A jet engine is an internal combustion engine, just like an automobile engine is. In a jet engine, the fuel and an oxidizer combust (or burn) and the products of that combustion are exhausted through a narrow opening at high speed.
Modern jet engine fuel is primarily kerosene, the same fuel used to heat homes in portions of the U.S. Kerosene, a flammable hydrocarbon oil, is a fossil fuel. Burning fossil fuels primarily produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O). Other major emissions are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen oxide (NO2), which together are called NOx, sulfur oxides (SO2), and soot.-NASA's Glenn Research Center
This is a diagram of emissions from a stack burning fossil fuels. Not unlike the emissions released by jet engines, pollutants are dispersed at different atmosphereic levels according to altitude.
As published in the Environmental Protection Agency:
Emissions Factors & AP 42
An emissions factor is a representative value that attempts to relate the quantity of a pollutant released to the atmosphere with an activity associated with the release of that pollutant. These factors are usually expressed as the weight of pollutant divided by a unit weight, volume, distance, or duration of the activity emitting the pollutant (e.g., kilograms of particulate emitted per megagram of coal burned). Such factors facilitate estimation of emissions from various sources of air pollution. In most cases, these factors are simply averages of all available data of acceptable quality, and are generally assumed to be representative of long-term averages for all facilities in the source category (i.e., a population average).
The general equation for emissions estimation is:
E = A x EF x (1-ER/100)
• E = emissions;
• A = activity rate;
• EF = emission factor, and
• ER =overall emission reduction efficiency, %
References & Further reading
According to the NRDC's 1997 study, "In adapting a threshold of 65 dbDNL, FAA rejected EPA's health based recommendations and chose, instead, to balance the protection of public health and welfare with competing economic and technological considerations".
The FAA's Noise Abatement guidelines push the implementation of such rules in to the hands of the air traffic controllers and the pilots. The responsibilty of noise abatement is then shared between the airports, airlines, local and regional government, and citizen of the communites effected.
The FAA asks local governement to form "Noise Response Process" to address incidents where noise levels become intolerable. So, for example, if you are a resident of a community who is under a flight path, the FAA then makes it YOUR responsibility to call a local hotline, lodge a noise complaint with visual sighting of said aircrafts' tail number. The airport then has the responsibility of then contacting the aircraft carriers owner and levying a fine against them for violating the noise abatement procedures.
If a copious amount of calls are made then, in theory, the air traffic controllers will be more apt to redirect flights away from the 'problem' area.
The flaw in this program is that pilots are now encouraged to utilize parks and open spaces which will suffer from the increased air quality degradation, and the newly impacted areas will suffer the same resonsibility of having to report noise until sufficiently heard and then moved to the next community.
Further Reading on Aircraft Noise
Fuel Jettison over land
Risk analysis studies need to be executed and delivered to area at risk for Fuel Jettison over land. In the new NAR, the land is a preferrable route to the sea where Fuel Jettison Risk was mitigated.
Evaluating Particulate Emissions from Jet Engines: Analysis of Chemical and Physical Characteristics and Potential Impacts on Coastal Environments and Human Health Journal
The results of this study suggest that the range of size of particulate emissions from some jet engines clusters below 1.5 ?m and that the emissions contain heavy metals. Therefore, jet exhaust particulates (JEPs) have the potential to adversely affect both the environment and human health. Little is known about the particulate component of jet engine emissions. Baseline physical and chemical data on JEPs were obtained to evaluate their potential effects on the environment. Particles collected from the exhaust stream of two types of jet engines were examined using scanning electron microscopy. Analysis indicated that 100 percent of the particles collected were below 1.5 ?m in size. Particles in this size range can penetrate to the alveoli of human lungs. Chemical analyses of jet engine exhaust were conducted in an attempt to identify chemical fingerprints that would distinguish aviation emissions in the environment from other anthropogenic emissions. Certain heavy metals, especially vanadium, were found in jet exhaust and may be useful chemical fingerprints. Analysis of JP-5 fuel standards revealed a suite of alkylbenzene hydrocarbons, which may also aid in fingerprinting aviation emissions. Sediment samples taken at coastal wetlands near airports indicated the presence of the same heavy metals as those found in jet exhaust samples. Field sites exposed to higher volumes of air traffic contained higher levels of sediment heavy metals, supporting the hypothesis that aerial deposition of heavy metals is occurring in areas near some airports.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Aviation Jet emissions directly contribute to global warming(1.):
According to an article published Dec 6, 2006 in USA Today, Gary Stoller writes:
Aviation and the environment are on a collision course." The number of airline flights worldwide is growing and expected to skyrocket over the coming decades. Aircraft emissions pollute the air and threaten by 2050 to become one of the largest contributors to global warming, British scientists have concluded.
New York Times Article published Jan 7, 1992:
Global Warming Threat Found in Aircraft Fumes
Studies on Global Warming and Aviation
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Aviation and Global Warming
The Australian government has commissioned severeal environmental studies on health, social, environmental, mental impacts to aircraft noise, emissions and vibrations. Based on these finding, they have adopted legislation which specifically protects the airline industry from full control of airspace.
Below is an excerpt from their findings which has been incorporated into Australian law.
HARMONIC VIBRATION IMPACTS FROM AIRCRAFT
Harmonic vibrations can be caused in buildings and in items within buildings by the
"Any proposal for airspace change that may lead to a change in the pattern or
Endangered Species Extinction
References and Further Reading
1. Anderson, C., S. Augustine, Embt, and T. Thrasher, Emission and Dispersion Modeling
System (EDMS) Reference Manual, U.S. Dept. of Trans., Federal Aviation Administration,
Report No. FAA-AEE-97-01, Washington, D.C., April, 1997.
2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MOBILE5a, Office of Mobile Sources, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, February, 1995.
3. International Civil Aviation Organization, Aircraft Engine Exhaust Emissions Databank,
Defence Evaluation and Research Agency,
, last accessed, March, 2001.
4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Compilation of Air Pollution Emission Factors, AP-
42, Fifth Edition, Research Park, N.C., May, 1998.
5. Petersen, W.B. and E.D. Rumsey, User’s Guide for PAL 2.0 - A Gaussian Plume Algorithm
for Point, Area, and Line Sources, Environmental Sciences Research Laboratory, Research
Triangle Park, NC, October, 1986.
6. Benson, P., CALINE3 - A Versatile Dispersion Model for Predicting Air Pollutant Levels
Near Highways and Arterial Streets, Report No. FHWA/CA/TL-79/23, California Dept. of
Transp., Office of Transp. Laboratory, Sacramento, CA., Nov., 1979.
7. Federal Aviation Administration Office of Environment and Energy Home Page.
http://www.aee.faa.gov/aee-100/aee-120/edms/5yrv01.pdf (accessed January, 2001).
8. Cimorelli, A.J., S.G. Perry, A. Venkatram, J.C. Weil, R.J. Paine, R.B. Wilson, R.F. Lee, and W.D. Peters, AERMOD - Description of Model Formulation, Draft, Environmental Protection
Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Research Triangle Park, NC, December,
9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, User’s Guide for the National Nonroad Emissions
Model - Draft Version, Ann Arbor, MI, June 1998.
10. Federal Aviation Administration, Consolidated Operations and Delay Analysis System
(CODAS), http://www.apo.data.faa.gov/ibapps/apo/codas/codasindexnew.html (accessed
11. Society of Automotive Engineers, Procedures for the Calculation of Airplane Noise in the
Vicinity of Airports, Report No. SAE-AIR-1845, 1998.
12. Guiding, J., J. Olmstead, R. Bryan, L. Mirsky, G. Fleming, J. D’Aprile, P. Gerbi, Integrated
Noise Model (INM) Version 6.0, User’s Guide, U.S. Dept. of Transp., Federal Aviation
Administration, Report No. FAA-AEE-99-03, Washington, D.C., August, 1999.
13. Wayson, R.L., G. G. Fleming, W. L. Eberhard, B. Kim, W. A. Brewer, J. Draper, J. Pehrson, and R. Johnson, 2003: The use of LIDAR to characterize aircraft exhaust plumes, Proceedings, 96th Ann. Meeting of AWMA, San Diego, CA, Air and Waste Management Association.