Aircraft noise: risk of heart disease

Aircraft noise increases risk of heart disease and strokes

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Wednesday 9 October 2013
by John Stewart

Study links aircraft noise from Heathrow to increased risk of heart disease and strokes.

Deaths from stroke, heart and circulatory disease are 20% higher in areas with high levels of aircraft noise than in places with the least noise (1). NoiseResearchers at Imperial College London and King’s College London compared data on day- and night-time aircraft noise with hospital admissions and mortality rates among a population of 3.6 million people living near Heathrow airport (2). The findings are published in the British Medical Journal. The study covered 12 London boroughs and nine districts outside of London where aircraft noise exceeds 50 decibels. This is about the volume of a normal conversation in a quiet room.

The new research backs up the findings of earlier work published by Imperial College. The 2008 HYENA Study (3) discovered a 14% increase in the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) for each 10 decibel increase in night-time aircraft noise. It looked at 4,861 people aged between 45 and 70 who had lived near Heathrow, Berlin Tegel, Amsterdam Schiphol, Stockholm Arlanda, Milan Malpensa and Athens Elephterios Venizelos airports for at least five years.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN said, “This latest study highlights once again that living under a flight path can damage your health. More people are affected by noise from Heathrow than by any other airport in Europe. It is yet another reason not to build a third runway.”

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1. A. Hansell et al. ’Aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease near Heathrow airport in London: small area study.’ British Medical Journal, 2013.
Public link to paper

2. The area included in the study comprised the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Hounslow, Ealing, Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Richmond upon Thames, Kingston upon Thames, Wandsworth, Lambeth and Southwark and nine districts to the west of London. Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough, Spelthorne, Wokingham, Elmbridge, Bracknell Forest, Wycombe, Runnymede and South Bucks.

3. Hypertension and exposure to noise near airports, Jarup et al, 2008