While new-generation jet engines are on average 75% quieter than than their 20th century predecessors, the advance in technology has been offset by a steady rise in flights and a demand for bigger passenger planes.
Stephen Stansfeld, a noise expert who heads the Centre for Psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London, says there is little doubt that “repeated and prolonged exposure” to the commotion of aviation is linked to heart and blood pressure problems, and can cause diminished learning in children.
People’s annoyance with air traffic also seems to be rising, “and it’s not entirely understood why that should be, whether it is greater sensitivity to airport operations, or whether it’s due to the fact there is more change around airports in terms of noise exposure which could sensitise people,” Stansfeld told EurActiv in a telephone interview. “The noise level from individual aircraft has gone down, but of course there are many more of them.”
Marie-Eve Héroux, technical officer on air quality and noise at the World Health Organization’s Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, points to “significant research” into the health impact of transportation noise in general. As examples, she cites sleep disturbance, annoyance, cognitive impairment, ringing sounds in ears, as well as a rise in cardiovascular diseases, hearing impairment and adverse birth outcomes.
“Compelling evidence points at a significant burden of disease from noise and provides convincing arguments for strong action to properly manage noise sources, including aircraft noise,” she told EurActiv in an e-mail.
Medical researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm added weight gain to the potential impact of noise on public health. In a study of people living near the Swedish capital’s Arlanda Airport, the research team found that prolonged exposure to aircraft noise caused a “statistically significant” increase in waist sizes.
New noise regulations
Policymakers have not been deaf to public health concerns. A new EU law (Regulation 598) is due to take effect on June 13, 2016, putting the EU in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s “balanced approach” to reduce noise by encouraging airlines to capitalise on a new generation of quieter engines, improving airport planning and – as a last resort – imposing restrictions on night flights.
It remains to be seen how effective those measures will be.
Civic groups have expressed dismay that the EU did not set verifiable reduction targets or impose bans on nighttime operations, and continue to make their own noise. This spring, for instance, landing patterns over Brussels became a hot potato in parliamentary elections, while protesters held their 100th demonstration at Frankfurt Airport, accusing Europe’s third largest aerodrome of harming neighbours’ health and demanding measures to reduce noise levels.
Roads and rails make noise, too
Yet aviation alone is far from a lone culprit in transport noise pollution.
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Health risks related to noise
About 40 percent of the population in Europe is exposed to road traffic noise levels exceeding the guideline value of 55 dBA. In Sweden more than two million people are exposed to levels exceeding this value outside their residence. Although road traffic constitutes the major source significant contributions also come from air craft and railway noise. Cardiovascular effects of long term exposure to community noise have been the focus of recent attention, but the scientific evidence is limited. Since large groups of the population are exposed to community noise even small excess risks of cardiovascular disease would be of great public health significance.
We have shown an increased risk of hypertension among subjects heavily exposed to road traffic noise in their residence and a higher incidence of hypertension among those exposed to air craft noise. Similar effects were observed in a multinational European study in which we also showed an increased saliva cortisol concentration in relation to noise exposure. Furthermore, our data indicate that exposure to noise from road traffic may increase the risk of myocardial infarction. Preliminary data also show a relation between air craft noise and markers of obesity, suggesting that noise may also induce metabolic effects.
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Hold you to your ears or you’ll get fat!
7.5.2014 (Bild – Germany)
[Imperfect translation from the German original, below]
So could the results of a Swedish study summarized show that there is a relationship between noise exposure and corpulence.
Those who live near an airport, runs the risk of gaining weight. The researchers found out the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. With an increase in the noise level by five decibels the waist take an average of 1.5 centimeters, is the main finding of the study.
Probable explanation: Because of the constant aircraft noise amplifies the body releases stress hormones from, especially cortisol. That can trigger cortisol food cravings and may adversely affect the metabolism, as has already been shown in some previous scientific studies.
For the study, 5,000 people were close to the Swedish capital, in the transit area of Arlandaairport, assessed over eight to ten years.
The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal “Environmental Health Perspectives”. They point out that there must be further medical examinations to clarify the relationship between noise to clarify and weight.
Basically, loud sounds are often perceived as particularly unpleasant. In addition, many a pulse-like, intermittend, noise can feel more disturbing than continuous noise.
People can at least partially get used to noise. The brain can learn to ignore repetitive noises such as traffic noise outside the living room window.
People who are regularly exposed to noise exceeding 90 decibels can get permanent hearing damage. It’s a bit louder than a busy street.
Noise is not only heard, but there can be whole body damage because the noise means stress for the body. The noise can cause the release of a cortisol-like hormone. This can, for example, lead to a rise in blood pressure and cause heart problems. During the night, noise can interfere with or prevent deep sleep. As a result, the cells do not recover properly.
This can not only skin aging ( wrinkles !), but also prevents the regeneration of cells and tissues. In addition, it can lead to mental illness. Once a sound is perceived as unpleasant it is best to get the noise to stop, or get out of the way.