New study shows that the hazard of particles from aircraft engines is comparable to diesel exhaust particles

A study from the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment concludes that particles from aircraft engines are potentially harmful to health on a par with exhaust from diesel engines. The airport, the operators and the trade unions will use the study to continue and intensify their work on achieving better air quality.  

“Going to work should not make you ill. It’s therefore great that we now have yet another study, and thus more important knowledge for our collaboration to ensure the best possible air quality at the airport,” says Kristian Durhuus, Vice President, Customer Service & Operations, at Copenhagen Airports A/S (CPH).


Since 2007, CPH, SAS, ground handlers, trade unions, Naviair and authorities have been working to reduce harmful emissions at the airport and taken part in a number of research projects – most recently the new study by the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA).


In 2010, an actual Air Quality Programme was established at Copenhagen Airport, which involves close cooperation with the trade unions behind 'Project Cleanair', which includes 3F Kastrup, Metal dept. 16 and VSL.


“So far, no reliable knowledge has been available about the potentially harmful effects of ultrafine particles from aircraft engines. However, now there is, and the new study concludes that the effect of ultrafine particles from aircraft corresponds to ordinary diesel exhaust. This means that the ultrafine particles from aircraft and diesel engines have comparable health impacts and can thus be carcinogenic. It is therefore important that we target the sources even further. For example, we must continue to reduce the use of aircraft auxiliary power units (APUs),” says Lars Brogaard, Trade Secretary of 3F Kastrup.


Since 2010, the work has applied a precautionary principle and, under the aegis of the air quality programme at CPH, a number of initiatives are being worked on to improve air quality, including:


  • Increased control of APUs – small jet engines that can be used, for example, when aircraft are parked.
  • Green push-back and a call for aircraft to taxi on one engine.
  • A requirement for aircraft to turn off the main engine as soon as the aircraft is parked.
  • Replacement of diesel-powered machines and cars with emission-free technologies.
  • The provision of filter masks for employees who work close to the aircraft.


On the basis of the study, CPH, SAS, the ground handlers (who handle the aircraft), the trade unions and Naviair will continue their work in the air quality programme and look into whether there are any activities that need stronger focus.


Airport operators will also ask the authorities for help in their continuing work to improve air quality. CPH will also offer data and knowledge from recent years' work on air quality as input for setting thresholds, which should preferably be set at EU level.


There have been several independent studies of air quality. From 2012 to 2016, the health of staff at the airport was compared with similar groups of Danes. This study was unable to conclude that there was an increased risk of a number of diseases associated with air quality.


We still need more knowledge. That is why CPH has just accepted to take part in the major international air-quality research project, AVIATOR. As part of the project, researchers will collect and analyse measurements of the air quality at Copenhagen Airport, Madrid-Barajas in Spain and the airport in Zurich.


Link to the above-mentioned study: http://nfa.dk/da/Forskning/Udgivelse?journalId=e37ffebc-b6e5-4df7-ac0d-ac7f03e2d378