Alarm at research linking strokes and heart disease to aircraft noise

Residents affected by aircraft noise in Belfast and north Down have expressed concern at the findings of a new study which links the incidence of strokes and heart disease to aircraft noise.

The study, which has just been published in the British Medical Journal, found that the risk of being admitted to hospital because of a stroke or heart disease was linked to the level of aircraft noise to which an individual was exposed; the higher the level of noise, the more likely it was that they would be admitted to hospital with one of those conditions.

The researchers also found a significant link between the risk of dying of heart disease and daytime exposure to aircraft noise; again, the greater the level of noise, the greater was the risk of dying from the condition. The results were adjusted to allow for other factors, such as deprivation and the existing risk of dying from lung cancer.

The study has prompted an editorial in the British Medical Journal which says that planners need to take into account the results of this and other similar research when deciding whether to permit airports to expand their operations in heavily populated areas.

The research, which was carried out in a number of areas near Heathrow Airport, has prompted concern among residents living under the flight paths near George Best Belfast City Airport.

Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, says:

 “These findings raise serious questions about the damage which aircraft noise may well be inflicting on the health of people living under the flight paths.

 “The City Airport’s own figures show that more than 8,500 local people are impacted by aircraft noise at a level which the UK government considers likely to cause significant annoyance.

 “This study confirms that there could well be significant health impacts, regardless of residents’ views on the noise issue.

 “That’s entirely unfair on the people who live under the flight paths, and it’s also unfair on the taxpayer footing the bill for hospital admissions which, in some cases, may be avoidable.”

Elizabeth Bennett (72) from Sydenham lives under the flight path and says she finds noise very stressful.

Elizabeth Bennett (72) from Sydenham lives under the flight path and says she finds noise very stressful.

One east Belfast pensioner who is concerned about the impact of aircraft noise on her own quality of life and health is Elizabeth Bennett (72).

Elizabeth has lived in her home in Sydenham for the past 40 years, and she says her retirement is being ruined by the noise of planes flying over her.

“They start at 6.30am and go on all day, every day – it’s just relentless,” she says.

 “You sit down to try to relax and read a newspaper, and then another one goes over you.

 “You can’t concentrate and it affects your sleep – I’m at my wit’s end to be honest, and I am concerned about the effect which the stress may be having on my health.”

Belfast City Airport Watch says it is especially concerned about this latest research in the light of the City Airport’s current request to amend its planning agreement.

 “In its editorial on this research, the British Medical Journal states that the study is of particular relevance where an airport is expanding its operations in a heavily populated area,” says Dr Fawcett.

 “That’s exactly the situation which we have at the moment with the City Airport’s application to change its planning agreement.

 “The proposals which the airport has submitted would massively increase the number of people who could be subjected to serious levels of noise.

 “We hope the forthcoming public inquiry on the airport’s application will take full account of the mounting international evidence which shows a link between aircraft noise and public health.”

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