If you knew your trip on a plane was going to inflict a lifetime of suffering onto a child, would you still take that trip? If you knew about the much higher rate of cancer, disease and illness that afflicts thousands of people in the flight paths would you still get on that plane? Does it seem right to say it’s their fault for moving there once you know these residents living near the airport are victims without knowledge of their own risk or options to protect themselves?
The aviation industry’s dirty little secret is that even though they have known about higher cancer and death rates near airports for decades and the risks to nearby communities, they still continued to expand and increase operations in densely populated areas.
What is acceptable risk to industry is not acceptable for public health however. I believe that since they were aware of the disease clusters near airports and independent studies that warned of the significant danger to residents, they must have been banking on the difficulty in analysis and the ambiguity of the invisible toxin and ultrafine particle. But now, science is catching up to them. Just like DNA left at a crime scene can catch a criminal, bio-assay, DNA testing, finding chemicals typical of jet engine emissions in blood, tumors and tissue leaves little room for the industry to call itself green anymore.
Airports are the biggest air polluters in their respective geographic areas. Their emission inventories rival steel mills, refineries and incinerators. But unlike these industries, aviation is not regulated, monitored or controlled so while other industry has to clean up their dangerous emissions, aviation continues to increase theirs.
So anyone advocating for keeping an airport operating in a densely populated area should be aware that you are also asking thousands of people to give up their right to health and quality of life. As you do this, remember that those planes are going to land at another airport where another group of people will become ill and pretty soon you will need to ask millions to sacrifice for you.
Debi Wagner/Aviation Justice