What’s an airport got to do with your heart health?

January 18, 2010 by  

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Many of us who live close big cities also live close to airports. And airports mean noise – jet noise from airplane. Over the years, cities have grown bigger. Airports, too. Environmental groups have always questioned the necessity and the environmental impact of the continuous expansion of airports.

A new study by German scientists is giving environmentalists the firepower to support their objections. The study followed up people living close to the Cologne-Bonn Airport in western Germany. The study looked at insurance date of more than 1 million aged 40 and older and compared health outcomes depending on place of residence. The results of the study indicate:

  • Living under plane flight paths increase risk for cardiovascular problems.
  • Men exposed to jet noise have a 69% higher risk of being hospitalized for cardiovascular disease.
  • Women exposed to jet noise fare even worse, having a93% higher rate of hospitalization due to cardiovascular problems
  • Daytime exposure seems to be worse. Women who are exposed to jet noise of about 60 decibels during the day are 172% more likely to suffer a stroke.

The study was commissioned by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency.

According to Eberhard Greiser, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Bremen University.

“These figures are worrying. It’s quite clear that living near an airport is very dangerous for your health. Jet noise is more dangerous than any other kind of road-traffic noise or rail noise because it is especially acute and sharp and it induces stress hormones.”

What is also worrying is that is that the Cologne-Bonn Airport is actually one of the smallest airports in the country, with relatively low air traffic. Frankfurt and Munich Airports are way far bigger, with more air traffic and frequented by bigger (and noisier) airplanes. If people living close to smaller airports have such increased risk for CVD, how much more increased risk do people who live, say close to London Heathrow or New York JFK have?

Aside from cardiovascular problems, people residing close to airports also tend to suffer from:

  • Psychological problems such as depression
  • Increased risk for certain types of cancer.

Women seem to be especially vulnerable to noise than men. Another study commissioned by local authorities in Bonn reports that women who are exposed to 60 decibels of nocturnal jet noise have double the risk of developing breast cancer.

Professor Greiser continues:

“It seems women are more sensitive to jet noise than men, but I would advise everyone to think twice about living near an airport because it’s not just aircraft noise which can be deadly; aircraft emissions are also dangerous.”

Environmentalists from Berlin to Frankfurt, from London to Paris are actively campaigning against further expansion of airports. The results of these studies will definitely add fuel to the discussion on cost and benefits of airports. Are we prepared to sacrifice public health to promote commercial interests?

Photo credits: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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