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Putting noise on the public health agenda

Noise pollution is the second most significant environmental threat to human health after poor air quality. There is now strong clinical evidence that aircraft noise is associated with an increase in the risk of stress and sleep disturbance in the short term, and that prolonged exposure can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Emerging evidence also points to links between increased aircraft noise and mental health, specifically the risk of depression. A learning delay of up to two months has also been observed amongst some children attending primary schools located under flightpaths.

What we want to see

  • Government should draw on all available evidence including the anticipated WHO guidelines, as well as the Survey of noise attitudes and other recent research, in setting long-term noise objectives for the UK
  • All existing policies should be reviewed to ensure that they take full account of the health impacts of aircraft noise and that any changes are permitted only if they help to deliver noise objectives
  • Future aviation policy decisions should assess the impact of aircraft noise on health, and should ensure that health impacts are monetised to inform cost-benefit analyses
  • The five-yearly revisions of noise action plans and noise exposure maps should be used to assess progress towards achieving health-based objectives for aircraft noise

What we’re doing

  • We highlighted the link between noise and public health in our 2016 publication Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear which we launched in Parliament
  • We held a follow-up event on noise and mental health, which allowed MPs to meet with experts and with some of those directly affected
  • We continue to highlight the need for health-based noise policy in our engagement with Government, including in responses to consultations. While we have seen a move towards including health costs in cost benefit analysis to inform decision-making, the Government remains reluctant to impose noise measures that could impact the sector’s growth