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New report finds aircraft noise policy puts the health of over one million people at risk

12th January, 2016

The Government’s aircraft noise policies are risking the health of over one million people and an urgent policy rethink is needed ahead of upcoming decisions in 2016, finds a major AEF report, ‘Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear‘, which is being launched in Parliament today (12th January).

The report identifies that aircraft noise can no longer be considered simply as an inconvenience to people’s lives. Major studies have concluded that aircraft noise is negatively affecting people’s health and quality of life.

Exposure to aircraft noise can lead to short-term responses such as sleep disturbance, annoyance, and impairment of learning in children, and long-term exposure is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, dementia, and may contribute to long-term mental health issues.

In the UK, over one million people are exposed to aircraft noise above levels recommended for the protection of health, estimated in the report to cost £540 million each year. 

Around 460 schools are exposed to aircraft noise at levels around Heathrow that can impede memory and learning in children while around 600,000 people in the UK are exposed to average aircraft noise levels that risk regular sleep disturbance.

Aircraft noise policy has not, however, been updated in line with this mounting evidence base, with some noise policies based on studies dating back to the early 1980s.

The health burden is not just experienced close to airports. The current policy on flightpath changes, for example, does not consider the evidence that sudden changes to aircraft noise exposure are likely to lead to much greater disruption for communities which has implications for health.

The report calls for the Government to act now and commit to developing targets to protect the public from the health impacts of aircraft noise and to review all policies in light of these targets. The report also calls for any future aviation policy decisions to assess the impact from aircraft noise on health.

Key aviation policy decisions upcoming in 2016 include:

  • the decision on a new runway in the South East, which has already been pushed back due to environmental concerns, and aircraft noise related health costs have already been assessed at costing up to £3.7 billion;
  • the principles and process of flightpath change decisions; and
  • the new night flights regulation (limiting the numbers of night flights) at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

New WHO guidelines are also likely to be published, which will provide further incentive for Government to update its policy.


Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear – Summary

Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear – Full report

Aircraft Noise and Public Health high quality infographic

AEF’s press release on the report, including details on the launch event, is here.

Image credit:

Lucie Basset, icons by Freepik.