I've lived under the flight path to Heathrow much too long to doubt the damage air pollution can do

Our writer has written at length about aircraft noise in the past. Here she reflects on a recent study on the subject. Below: the fuss over sexist front pages

Share

We pay more attention, I would wager, to arguments we like than to those we don’t. Which is doubtless why I was so taken with reports of research saying that building a third runway at Heathrow could treble deaths related to air pollution (bringing them to 150 a year by 2030), while a brand new “Boris Island” airport could reduce them by two thirds. Of course, I’d hardly given the time of day to a report, just a couple of weeks before, projecting the huge cost of transport links to a new airport – money that would come out of our taxes!

As you may know, I have a bee in my un-soundproofed bonnet about aircraft noise. In common with thousands of central Londoners, I’m awoken before 5am several times a week, as flights muster over the Thames, queuing to land at Heathrow. Why the flightpath tracks the Thames through the very centre of town defeats me; many cities ban overflights on security grounds alone. It especially annoys me when people say that those living near airports know what they are getting. Central London is not Hounslow or Richmond. 

But there was another reason why the report – by researchers at MIT and Cambridge University – tweaked my interest. A few months before, I’d tried to find out whether anyone had compared “normal” air pollution levels in London with the level when volcanic ash grounded all the planes in the spring of 2010. I had the impression at the time that those days were uniquely clear; that I didn’t need to wash my hair so often; that general grime levels were lower. Were there figures to prove it?

I was put in touch with a team at University College London. They regretted that they had no answer. Air quality is only monitored, apparently, in the immediate vicinity of the airport, and any recorded difference had been negligible.

But now there seems to be an answer, if only a partial one, that at least chimes with common sense. The MIT/Cambridge study found that the wind mostly blows from north-east to south-west, so that pollution from Heathrow disproportionately affects the whole of London. I can imagine politicians and planners whispering that an extra 100 deaths a year is not so many in the greater scheme of things (though they would never say that for the record). But is air quality for the rest of us not an issue? And if it isn’t, perhaps it should be.

The bylines are all at home

A bit of a fuss this week over the dearth of women’s bylines on the front pages of major newspapers, the conclusion – drawn by the group, Women in Journalism - being that newspapers are run by and for men. I’ve no doubt men’s bylines predominate on the front page, as almost everywhere else in newspapers, except perhaps in fashion and beauty - come on, lads, where are you? I also know, don’t we all? that a hot-line to an editor can push an article up the pecking order.

But a big story is a big story, and there is a more basic explanation for the current lack of women’s bylines on the front page: the sad truth is that they are not hugely in evidence elsewhere either. Indeed, it seems to me that there are fewer female political reporters and fewer female foreign correspondents than there were when I was reporting through the late 1980s and 1990s. This may be partly because cost cutting has claimed staff correspondents’ jobs, but partly, too, because news – which is, after all, the staple of front pages – is hard to constrain within family-friendly hours.

More men than you might think also forsake news reporting for family reasons, but family responsibilities are as incompatible with front-page deadlines as they always were. You’ll find the women in broadcasting, on the web, and writing books. But so long as newspapers go to press in late evening for delivery in the morning, it’s in the home that you’ll find the answer to the lack of female front-page bylines. 

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea