Airport noise does more than just annoy
New research finds that living near an airport can increase rates of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.
Thu, Dec 17 2009 at 4:52 PM
Photo: Getty Images
According to a soon-to-be published study by Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency, people who are exposed to jet noise have a substantially increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The report found that men who are exposed to jet noise have a 69 percent higher risk of being hospitalized for cardiovascular disease than those who don't live near airports. In addition, women who live near airports have a 93 percent higher rate of hospitalization with cardiovascular problems and are 172 percent more likely to suffer a stroke when exposed to jet noise, all when compared to their counterparts in quiet residential areas, reports a recent Time magazine story.
The new findings are likely to add fuel to a growing debate across the world concerning new airport construction and its effects on human health.
The report, which will be published in January, is based on data drawn from the public health records of more than 1 million Germans ages 40 and over who live near Cologne-Bonn Airport in western Germany.
"These figures are worrying. It's quite clear that living near an airport is very dangerous for your health," said Eberhard Greiser, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Bremen University. "Jet noise is more dangerous than any other kind of road-traffic noise or rail noise because it is especially acute and sharp and it induces stress hormones."
In addition to cardiovascular problems, the study also found that women living near the airport were more likely to suffer from psychological problems as well.
"There was a higher incidence of depression among women who live near the airport," said Jens Ortscheid of the Federal Environment Agency. "This report should come as a warning signal to all governments and authorities that are planning to expand airports — there are serious health effects which need to be considered."
But that’s not all. A separate study, which also examined Cologne-Bonn Airport, found that women living near the airport were more likely to develop breast cancer and leukemia.
"It seems women are more sensitive to jet noise than men, but I would advise everyone to think twice about living near an airport because it's not just aircraft noise which can be deadly; aircraft emissions are also dangerous," said Greiser.
The new findings won’t be viewed as good news for governmental authorities wanting to expand airport capacities in places like the U.K. and Germany.
Greiser, on the other hand, believes his report provides even further evidence of the health risks associated with jet noise. "When it comes to expanding airports, governments and the courts all over the world will have to weigh the benefits of commercial interests against the danger to public health," he said. "How many additional diseases is society prepared to accept?"
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