Our environment and health are intrinsically linked. Aviation generates both noise and emissions, which in turn can harm human health.
Air pollution poses a known risk to human health. Links have been found with a wide range of health problems including: respiratory conditions such as asthma; lung and other cancers; stroke; heart disease; diabetes; obesity; and dementia. It is estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution results in between 28 000 and 36 000 deaths a year in the UK alone.
A study published in 2020 found that pollution from Heathrow Airport was detected up to 11 miles from the airport in central London.
Both aircraft and associated road traffic (people coming to and from the airport and air freight distribution) impact air pollution levels at and around airports. A study published in 2020 found that pollution from Heathrow Airport was detected up to 11 miles from the airport in central London.
To read more about the issue of air pollution as a result of aviation activity, click here.
The health impacts of noise pollution from aviation have typically been under-reported, despite affecting communities close to airports and those that live under flightpaths. Many residents moved into their homes before airports were operating at the scale they are today, while widespread changes to flight paths have led to many experiencing aircraft noise problems for the first time.
Our 2016 report Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the Evidence is Loud and Clear estimated that In the UK, over one million people are exposed to aircraft noise above levels recommended for the protection of health.
Noise pollution can have both psychological and physiological health impacts. It is linked to increased risk of heart attack, strokes and dementia. Higher levels of noise also trigger activity in the amygdala, which processes stress and fear, and can increase arterial inflammation.
To read more about aircraft noise click here. If you are affected by aircraft noise, you can read our guides explaining the relevant legislation and role of regulators and other bodies, how to complain about aircraft noise, and, how to make your views known in the airspace change and planning processes.
Higher levels of noise trigger activity in the amygdala, which processes stress and fear, and can increase arterial inflammation.
Aviation is responsible for approximately 2% of global carbon emissions annually (and nearly 5% of global warming attributed to human activity), and is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified that:
overall, climate change is projected to increase threats to human health, particularly in lower income populations, predominantly within tropical and subtropical countries.
The World Health Organisation highlights that changing climatic conditions have direct impacts (usually caused by weather extremes such as death or injury from floods and storms) and can indirectly increase the risk of mosquito borne diseases, water-borne pathogens, poor water and air quality, and problems with food availability.
For more about the impact of aviation on climate change, click here.