Air Quality FAQ

What is Massport doing to reduce aircraft emissions at Logan?
Massport continues to be an active member of the EPA/FAA Emission Reduction Stakeholder Process for airports, which is working to promote the long-term reduction of aircraft emissions. The stakeholder process is made up of representatives from engine makers, aircraft manufactures, FAA, EPA, airlines, and airports who are working together to promote lower emissions. Massport is also committed to controlling airport emission under the Logan Air Quality Initiative and continues to seek new ways to reduce on airport emissions through a variety of methods (e.g. alternative fuel vehicles). Massport reports emission reduction efforts annually in the EDR/ESPR.

What is the Logan Air Quality Initiative?
Beginning in 2001, Massport developed the Air Quality Initiative (AQI) as a 15-year program with the overall goal to maintain NOx emissions associated with Logan Airport at or below 1999 levels. The AQI has four primary goals, shown below.

  • Expand on the initiatives already in-place at Logan Airport.
  • Retire emissions credits in affected communities, giving priority to mobile sources. Massport updates the emissions inventory annually to reflect new information and changing conditions associated with the airport's operations.
  • Report the status and progress of the AQI in the Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) or Environmental Data Report (EDR).
  • Continue to work at the international and national levels to decrease air emissions from aviation sources. Massport continues as a member and participant of the Environmental Protection Agency/ Federal Aviation Administration (EPA/FAA) Stakeholder Process.

Details of the AQI are presented annually in the Logan ESPR or EDR.

What is the difference between air pollutants and hazardous air pollutants?
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are different from traditional air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. HAPs are known or suspected to have direct or indirect human health effects, such as respiratory or nervous system damage.

Why are the lower noise levels in new aircraft engines often accompanied by an increase in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions?
Quieter engines run at a higher temperatures. NOx is a product of combustion at a higher temperature.

What are the potential effects associated with the criteria pollutants if elevated levels are present?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) results from the incomplete combustion of fuel. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that at elevated concentrations can cause headaches and nausea. Consequently, emissions of this gas from major sources (for example motor vehicles) are regulated by federal emission standards.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that easily vaporize at room temperature. VOCs include a wide range of substances, such as hydrocarbons (for example benzene and toluene), halocarbons and oxygenates. The hydrocarbon VOCs are usually grouped into methane and other non-methane VOCs. Methane is an important component of VOCs, its environmental impact principally relates to its contribution to the production of ground level or lower atmosphere ozone. Typical sources of VOC's include incomplete fuel combustion, leakage of natural gas from distribution systems, and atmospheric chemical reactions. The evaporation of solvents can also result in releases of VOCs

Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) are the total of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). When fuel sources such as natural gas, coal, oil and gasoline are combusted, atmospheric nitrogen may combine with molecular oxygen to form NO. NO is colorless and odorless. When NO reacts with ozone (O3), it forms NO2, a reddish-brown haze with a pungent odor. Automobiles, trains and aircraft are sources of NOx. Other common sources include industrial and power plants. Typically, the largest urban source of NOx is emissions from motor vehicles. The human health effects of exposure to nitrogen oxides, such as nitrogen dioxide, are similar to those of ozone. These effects may include:

  • Short-term exposure at high concentrations can decrease lung function.
  • Lower concentrations can irritate lungs.
  • Even low concentrations can affect lung function in asthmatics.
  • Long-term lower level exposures can affect lung tissue.
  • Children may also be especially sensitive to the effects of nitrogen oxides.

Particulate Matter (PM) are small particles suspended in the air. PM can come from smoke, dust and many types of combustion. They can be course particles (50-100 microns) or very small (0.005 microns). PM10 (10 microns) and smaller PM2.5 (2.5 microns) are important from a public health perspective since they are small enough to penetrate the lungs. High concentrations of PM have been associated with a range of breathing and respiratory symptoms. Currently, the U.S. EPA has a NAAQS for PM10, and for PM2.5 .