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France, PM2.5 and the flight ban

For 25 years now, the air quality index of the “Atmo France” institute has not changed. This index therefore does not take into account certain pollutants or PM2.5, although scientists consider the smaller particles more dangerous than its “big brother” PM10. According to the WHO, pollution due to the particles of PM2.5 should not exceed 10µ/m³ per year on average.

A study published on the “Journal of American College of Cardiology” has shown that the risk of death in patients with a medical history (heart transplantation) and, therefore, prone to a compromised immune system, increases by 26% per 10 μg/m3 (for comparison: one cigarette a day equals to 28.8μg/m3 of particulate matter). Increased exposure to PM2.5 is directly related to illnesses that have serious consequential health damages, such as cardiovascular diseases and brain tumours. While the largest particles (PM10) remain in the upper respiratory tract and can be excreted by our body on its own, smaller particles such as ultrafine particles can penetrate into the human bloodstream. Once they have reached the organs, these dangerous ultrafine particles could, for example, trigger health-threatening inflammations. 

Now PM2.5 is used for modelling the index of air quality. Unfortunately, there is currently no binding limit values for PM2.5 in the EU, unlike PM10. If France were to follow the advice of the WHO, this would mean in reverse that driving bans would be more frequent in the future and bring traffic almost to a standstill. 

In Germany, PM2.5 is of course also a big and important topic – and, unfortunately not just figuratively, on everyone’s lips and lungs. Areas near airports are especially exposed to enormous levels of this particularly dangerous type of particles and the even finer particles of PM0.1, the so-called ultrafine particles. In addition to the particles of particulate matter emitted during the combustion of aircraft engines, this dangerous type of fine particles is also produced during landing and take-off (e.g. abrasion of the tyres and brakes, etc.). Some airports such as Cologne-Bonn vehemently refuse to allow measurements. However, analyses on this matter are being carried out at the fourth largest German airport, Düsseldorf International, in order to find out more about the exact effects of these particles. Therefore, it is extremely important to recognise and describe PM2.5 and the ultrafine particles for what they are: silent and merciless killers. 

After the EU has already imposed driving bans on the roads due to particulate matter and NOx, will flight bans and no-fly zones follow in the future? Are we allowed to move at all? 

We will continue to monitor the matter.