Monday 17 May 2021

Children living near airport have more breathing problems


Children living near Schiphol airport have had breathing problems due to their exposure to air pollution, according to the RIVM public health body.

In what it claims is the most extensive research of its kind, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment worked with Utrecht University and the Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre on three separate studies into exposure to ultrafine particles.

It found that people living around the airport are regularly exposed to high concentrations of the particles, which have an impact on their health. ‘On days with high exposures, children with respiratory complaints suffer more and use more medication,’ it reports. ‘Complaints include shortness of breath and wheezing.’

A study of 191 primary school children in residential areas nearby showed they had short-term reductions in lung function with higher, short-term exposure. This had a particular impact for people with sensitivities such as asthma or a heart condition.

The particles had the same effect on healthy adults in a related study of 21 people, although the researchers added: ‘On average, these changes are small and will not necessarily result in health problems.’

It adds that ultrafine particles from road traffic are thought to have the same effect as from air traffic. The team is now studying long-term exposure to this air pollution and expects to report the results in 2021.

Three environmental groups responded by calling for a reduction in the size of the airport. It is time to return the balance between climate change, nature and health on one side and the economy on the other,’ Greenpeace, Natuur & Milieu and the Natuur & Milieufederatie Noord-Holland (MNH) told the Nos broadcaster.

Sijas Akkerman, director of the MNH said in a press release that windborne pollution was a health hazard. ‘This investigation shows for us that Schiphol is more dangerous for the health of residents nearby than had previously been thought,’ he said. ‘If you line up all the facts, you can only conclude that Schiphol needs to get smaller.’

Schiphol airport told the Nos that the investigation’s findings ‘can help improve air quality for residents and employees at the airport’ and that it is working on an action plan to reduce ultrafine particle emissions. has asked the Royal Schiphol Group for a comment.

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