There is a growing evidence base suggesting that aircraft noise has negative effects on human health. The impact is particularly pronounced with night noise from aircraft. A recent large scale study around Heathrow Airport found that people living under the flightpath were 10-20% more at risk to stroke and heart disease than those not living under the flight path.
Key health related impacts of aircraft noise include:
Hypertension: Noise events place the body under stress, even when the person displays no conscious reaction to the noise. The added stress leads to raised heart rate and blood pressure. The raised blood pressure is then strongly linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic renal failure and myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Mental health: As aircraft noise causes disruption to many people’s lives, referred to as annoyance, there is evidence of an increase in stress and anxiety for people affected by aircraft noise.
Productivity and development of children: Many studies have shown negative effects of noise, particularly in relation to aircraft noise, on the reading ability and mental development of children. These impacts are magnified when these learning activities are taken outdoors.
The World Health Organisation in Europe made recommendations in 2009 of the levels of aircraft noise above which health is affected. We advocate for using the 2009 guidelines as a long term target for UK aviation noise policy.
See: AEF’s report ‘Aircraft Noise and Health: the Evidence is Loud and Clear‘
The relationship between air pollution and damage to human health is well established. According to the UK Government, each year, around 29,000 premature deaths are attributable to air pollution from large particles in the UK. Airports can exacerbate air pollution problems both as a result of aircraft emissions and by increasing road traffic. See our ‘Air pollution’ section for more details. The World Health Organisation has recommended air quality levels that are required to avoid damage to human health.