People, Environment

Air Pollution on Cruise Ships Worse Than Imagined

Air Pollution on Cruise Ships Worse Than ImaginedAir Pollution on Cruise Ships Worse Than Imagined

Some come with 10-storey slides, running tracks and private gyms while one boasts as many trees as a small city suburb. But the luxury ocean liners luring record numbers of tourists on to round-the-world cruises may not be as healthy as they seem.

Even on the open water, the air pollution on some ships is double that of central London, according to an investigation by Dispatches, the investigative series on the UK’s Channel 4.

The exhaust fumes the boats belch out at sea are not covered by regulations that limit emissions on land, and the heavy fuel oil that powers the ships’ engines is allowed to contain 3,500 times more sulfur than road fuel, The Times reported.

Standing on the deck, downwind of a ship’s funnel, investigators found air pollution of 84,000 ultrafine particles per cubic centimeter. This is more than double the 38,400 ultrafine particles per cubic centimeter found at Piccadilly Circus and almost 20 times as much as the 4,285 particles at Camber Sands beach on the south coast of England.

Ultrafine particles are particularly damaging to human health because they are small enough to cross the membranes in our lungs.

Matt Loxham, a respiration biologist at Southampton University, said ultrafine particles were about a thousand times thinner than a strand of human hair.

“Larger particles that we inhale usually get trapped in the airways by phlegm, or by hairs in the nostrils. But ultrafines can get right into the depths of the lung and distribute throughout the body,” he said.

“There are some areas of the ship deck that are affected by really quite high levels of particulate matter. These are levels you would expect in some of the most polluted cities in the world.”

Loxham said the air pollution could affect asthmatics and exacerbate cardiovascular symptoms for passengers with pre-existing conditions.

Daniel Rieger, of the German eco-charity Nabu, said a single cruise liner could create as much particulate matter as one million cars.

“You can say that 30 cruise ships pollute as much as all the cars in the United Kingdom,” he said.


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