Biomoni­toring

Leipzig/Halle Airport is continually checking the air quality in the area around the airport. It particularly focuses its checks on any air pollution caused by aircraft and apron area operations. These voluntary checks approximately measure the current level of pollutants at the airport and in the surrounding area to make things transparent to the population.

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So-called biomonitoring is used for some of the tests at the airport. 

“Bioindicators or biomonitoring mean that living organisms or communities of organisms are used because their vital functions are so closely linked to certain environmental factors that it is possible to draw conclusions about these environmental factors as a result.” (Source: ADV). 

TÜV Süd performed some tests at Leipzig/Halle Airport using kale plants in 2008. Biomonitoring has been taking place using bee colonies, which have been set up in the area surrounding the airport, since 2009.

Current Projects

Biomonitoring with bees

Biomonitoring with bees is another procedure for examining the air quality in a particular area that is being observed. 

Bees are able to directly absorb pollutants through water and the air and transport them to the bee colony. Plants can also absorb pollutants from the air, water or soil and pass them on to the bees via the nectar and/or pollen yields.

Bee colonies fly through their territory extremely intensively and usually cover an area measuring 12 km². Checks made on honey can reveal the nature of the pollution in this area. It provides a picture of the environmental conditions in the harvest area. Bees themselves act almost as the “biofilter”. They are very sensitive to pesticides/herbicides and other chemicals. Bees therefore act as indicators and collectors and reveal any possible accumulation of pollutants in pollen, wax and honey; they therefore help monitor and assess emissions in the area that is being observed (Source: ADV; German only).

There are currently 10 bee colonies in the area near the airport – at Döllnitz, Röglitz and Papitz. Other sites are being planned.

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Once the nectar has been collected and the honey produced, the latter is tested for polycyclic carbons, heavy metals and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene). An appropriately certified laboratory did not find any evidence of pollutants at the Kursdorf site. 

Test results from honey samples [PDF; 0,2 MB] (German only)

Biomonitoring with ryegrass

Leipzig/Halle Airport launched a new biomonitoring project in May 2020 to investigate air quality. Active biomonitoring with uniform types of grass has been generally accepted as a reliable and standardised measurement process in line with the latest scientific findings. Leipzig/Halle Airport therefore decided to use biomonitoring with ryegrass.

Standardised types of grass were sown at eight measuring points as representatives of forage crops in line with Guideline VDI 3957/2 in May 2020. Like the curly kale, they are set to be examined for the 16 EPA PAHs (16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons classified as “priority pollutants” by the US Environmental Protection Agency) and eight selected metals.

The process that uses standardised types of grass makes it possible to discover any persistent substances, which are deposited in small particles, but also gaseous substances and airborne particles, as is the case with biomonitoring with curly kale. This involves heavy metals and inorganic trace substances (i.e. metals) and organic pollutants like the PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons); they can be released during airport operations, accumulate in the food chain and can therefore have a damaging effect on human health.

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Four types of grass have been sown at each measuring point and the measurements will be recorded until about the end of August. 

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  • Schkeuditz-Nord,
  • Schkeuditz-Ost, Am Kalten Born (see photo)
  • Werlitzsch
  • Beuditz
  • Freiroda
  • Gerbisdorf
  • Radefeld
  • Röglitz

 

Past Projects

Kale plants are particularly suitable as so-called indicators to determine any contamination in the air. 

Biomonitoring with kale near the airport
TÜV Süd tested the air quality at the airport using these food plants. It arrived at the conclusion that the area should be classified as a typical rural region. It did not find any kinds of restrictions that should be imposed on their use in gardens. 

Kale plants grown in a laboratory were planted at eight sites very close to the airport between October and December 2008. The length of the experiment matched the course of the natural vegetation cycle. The kale plants were put outside in containers with their own water supply, standing freely above the soil, in order to determine the air quality. This made it possible to guarantee that the concentration of pollutants that was analysed would be exclusively due to possible contamination in the air. 

The kale plants were set up at the following eight locations: 

  • Schkeuditz-Nord, on the allotment plot south of the DHL hangar
  • Schkeuditz-Süd, on the allotment plot south of the B6 main road
  • Altscherbitz, in the area near the compensation measures
  • Papitz, at the edge of the allotment plot opposite the fuel depot
  • Modelwitz estate
  • Lützschena, at the end of Windmühlenweg
  • Freiroda, Windmühlenstrasse
  • Kursdorf, Kursdorfer Ring
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Test results

Following the end of the test phase, the kale plants were examined in a laboratory for any contamination or possible accumulation of pollutants that could be relevant to consumption by humans and their health. The analysis revealed that no restrictions needed to be imposed on their use in gardens. The figures were therefore significantly lower than the top values found in sites marked by an urban industrial environment. 

Conclusion drawn by TÜV Süd
TÜV Süd confirmed, after concluding the experiments, that it had been unable to find any significant accumulation of pollutants in the bioindicator plants caused by the airport operations. 

Report on "Biomonitoring for air pollutants" by TÜV Süd [PDF; 1,2 MB] (German only)

The findings in the tests were also confirmed by measurements taken at the air pollution point operated by the Free State of Saxony, which is north of Helios Hospital in Schkeuditz. The data collected there did not reveal any breach of permissible thresholds either. 

A mobile air pollutant measuring unit belonging to TÜV Süd was set up north of Dahlienweg in Schkeuditz/Papitz from December 2009 until February 2011. After the analysis work performed using indicator plants and bees’ honey, the airport performed more voluntary checks here. 

Leipzig/Halle Airport coordinated the voluntary air pollution measurement system with representatives of the town of Schkeuditz and the “Against Noise” citizens’ initiative. 

The measurement period lasted 14 months.

The measurement parameters were:

  • PM10
  • NO2 (+NO)
  • Benzene, toluene, xylene
  • O3
  • SO2
  • CO
  • PM2.5
  • B(a)P
  • VOCs

Extract from the final report about the air quality measurements at Schkeuditz-Ost

Flughafen Leipzig/Halle GmbH instructed TÜV SÜD Industrie Service GmbH to perform emission measurements on Blumenstrasse in Schkeuditz-Ost over a period of 12 months. The measurement period was extended to 14 months. 

When assessing the measurements over 14 months, a moving average figure was formed for 12 months in each case. The annual key data is therefore available for three assessment periods. The assessment figures for protecting human health were met by all the measurement components during all the assessment periods. 

The average measured concentrations were significantly lower than the figures used to assess the annual average in the case of all the pollutants. 

There are also short-term exposure limits for the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3) and even airborne particles (PM10) – and they relate to the average daily figure, the average figure for 1 hour or for 8 hours, depending on the pollutant in question. The limits have normally been met, if the maximum permissible number of breaches is not exceeded during any one year. 

TÜV Süd’s mobile pollutant measuring unit

No breaches of thresholds for short-term pollution were found during the measurement period for the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2) or carbon monoxide (CO). The average concentration of PM10 particles was below the annual threshold during the assessment period. 

The target figure for benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) in PM10 was met for all the assessment periods that were observed. As expected, the measurement figures during the summer months are significantly lower than during the winter period. 

In addition to the aromatic hydrocarbons and typical kerosene alkanes, which are registered as monthly average figures, random samples of air are collected and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are identified and quantified using GC-MS screening. 

Conclusion: all the measurement results during the measurement period comply with the assessment figures for protecting human health.