Health impacts

Environmental noise is an increasing global issue related to population growth, urbanisation and expanding transportation infrastructure – including airports. Research from around the world shows environmental noise degrades residential, social and learning outcomes.  Increased and ongoing exposure to aircraft noise increases impacts, including:

  • Cardiovascular impacts through general stress, sleep disturbance and annoyance. Increased risk factors include raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and blood fat levels. These may lead to hypertension, hardening of the arteries and an increased risk of heart attacks.
  • Impacts of aircraft emissions, primarily Particulate Matter 2.5, tiny particles inhaled into the lungs that can then cross into the bloodstream. This means they circulate around the body and can affect different body systems. There is evidence these PM 2.5 particles can move into tissue and cause inflammation. Black carbon is another problem emission.
  • Annoyance is the most prevalent community response. It results in negative reactions such as disturbance, irritation, dissatisfaction and nuisance. These may cause people to experience stress related symptoms. 
  • Sleep disturbance both disturbs sleep and impairs sleep recuperation. Physiological reactions to noise include changes in breathing, body movements and heart rate, which do not adapt over time. Those considered more at risk include the elderly, shift workers, children and those with poor health. For many of these groups, sleeping patterns may differ from the general curfew hours at airports – especially for children.
  • Exposure to aircraft noise at home and at school has been shown to impair reading and memory skills. Poorer performance on standardised achievement tests has been observed, reversible if noise is reduced.
  • Soil and water contamination from aircraft and runway operations, a particular issue should aircraft need to jettison fuel into the shallow Frankton Arm.
  • Safety and emergency planning, especially when housing and other community infrastructure is close by and our public health service is already stretched thin.
  • Other public health issues impacted on include provision of public toilets, freedom camping, water supply and wastewater capacity, traffic congestion, parking provision, public amenity and waste minimisation.
  • The World Health Organisation describes noise as “an underestimated threat” that can cause short and long-term health problems, including the above plus hearing impairment and poorer work performance.
  • The International Civil Aviation Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations, has as one of its “main priorities and…key environmental goals” being to limit or reduce the number of people affected by significant aircraft noise.  As it says “aircraft noise is the most significant cause of adverse community reaction related to the operation and expansion of airports. This is expected to remain the case in most regions of the world for the foreseeable future.”

Further references:

Aviation Noise Impacts: State of Science Noise Health 2017

WHO Noise and Health Evidence Reviews Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018

Development of WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region: An Introduction. 2018

Aircraft Noise and Health effects: Recent Findings. Civil Aviation Authority 2016.

Click to access CAP%201278%20MAR16.pdf

Airport Noise Data and Statistics, World Health Report 2018

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