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New report finds out-of-date aircraft noise policies are putting the health of over one million people at risk

12th January, 2016


A new report [1] by the environmental group Aviation Environment Federation [2] has identified that 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. The report is being launched in Parliament today (12th January)[3].

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

The report identifies that aircraft noise is associated with increased risk of heart and circulatory problems including increased blood pressure, and higher risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Health is also detrimentally affected through sleep disturbance and annoyance and aircraft noise impedes the memory and learning ability of school children.

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 Government’s lack of response to emerging evidence is putting the health of over one million people at continued risk estimating 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.

The health burden is not just experienced close to airports. The current policy on flightpaths, 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 to reduce the health burden from aircraft noise, by drawing up long-term noise targets to protect health and reviewing all noise policies in light of these targets. The report also calls for any future flightpath changes, new night noise regulations and a new runway in the South East to be permitted only if the decision helps to reduce the noise burden on communities.

Key aviation policy decisions upcoming in 2016 include, importantly, the decision on a new runway in the South East, which has already been pushed back due to environmental concerns, the principles and process of flightpath change decisions, the new night flights regulation (limiting the numbers of night flights) at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and New WHO guidelines are also likely to be published, which will provide further incentive for Government to update its policy.

James Lees, author of the report, said:

“The lack of response from the Government in face of a growing evidence base of the health effects of aircraft noise is putting the health of over one million people in the UK at risk.

“For too long aircraft noise has been seen as only an inconvenience. In fact, aircraft noise is increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke among people overflown and preventing children from achieving their potential in schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise.

“Failure to address this problem could make aircraft noise the next public health crisis waiting to happen. Government should end its inaction and start putting the health of its citizens first.”



James Lees: 079 8177 2962 / / 020 3102 1509

Notes to editor

[1] A copy of the report summary can be downloaded at: . The full report is available to download at:

[2] Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is the only national NGO campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation including noise, air pollution and climate change. Supported by individuals and community groups affected by the UK’s airports and airfields or concerned about aviation and climate change, we promote a sustainable future for aviation which fully recognises and takes account of all its environmental and social impacts.

[3] The report is being launched in the House of Commons on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at an event organised by the Heathrow campaign group HACAN and hosted by Twickenham MP, Dr Tania Mathias. Professor Stephen Stansfeld will be speaking about the latest evidence of health effects at the report launch. AEF Director Tim Johnson will be summarising the report’s key findings. Contact James Lees for more details: