Research health risks ultra fine particles around Schiphol Airport

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment presented a research program at the Environment Council Schiphol on March 3 that should answer the questions about possible adverse health effects of ultra fine particles around Schiphol airport. Various stakeholders such as universities and health authorities are engaged in the investigation. Residents and municipalities in the Environment Council have been closely involved in the development of the study design.


The research questions

  1. What are the long-term concentrations of ultra fine particles from aviation in the vicinity of Schiphol?
  2. What are the health effects of prolonged exposure to ultra fine particles from aviation?
  3. What are the health effects of short-term increases in ultra fine particles of aviation and how do these effects relate to effects of ultra fine particles from other sources (in particular road traffic)?

To answer the first question there must first be measured reliably. The researchers don’t skate on thin ice. There will be intensive measurements in ten different places around Schiphol. This should lead to marked differences in amounts of ultra fine particles in different wind directions. Moreover, aircraft emissions are clearly distinguishable from those of diesel engines.

Both the emission of starting and landing, as well as taxiing aircraft is carefully measured. With the results of all those measurements the load of ufp can be calculated for any location around the airport.


Health effects

When the data of the burden of ultra fine particles are known, each address will be linked to existing health registries. So links can be examined for example with drug use, premature death and outcomes of pregnancy. Results cannot be expected earlier than in 2021.

Regarding the third question next school year children of some primary schools east and west of Schiphol will be monitored daily with journals and health measurements. Because of different wind directions the children will be alternately exposed to ultra fine particles from air traffic.

This involves children in grades 6 and 7 who want to join themselves in the investigation and whose parents consent. Separately, fifty children are selected with asthma. In this group can be looked specifically to effects on breathing and medication given. There is, by the way, no blood or urine taken: it’s about pulmonary function tests that children can do at home.


Road traffic versus air traffic

During this part of the research mobile measuring equipment to ultra fine particles will be placed near the schools. Those can also distinguish between road and air traffic. The research is so detailed that even the load of the home addresses can be taken into account. Report is expected before summer holidays of 2019.

In order to compare the toxicity of ultra fine particles from aircraft to that of road traffic, there has been proposed to initiate an experimental study with volunteers. These must be checked exposed to the harmful substances. They should be exposed to hazardous substances in a controlled environment. This must still be clarified in greater detail. Then the Medical Ethical Committee should authorize. Yet the planning is that this part of the study is also ready before the summer of 2019.



Reporting on the progress of the study will be presented on the RIVM website. ‘No active (media) attention will be sought’ is stated in the study design.