Oct. 29 - UK researchers say long-term exposure to aircraft noise increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A five year study focusing on the noise produced by planes flying in and out of Heathrow reveals a higher rate of hospitalisation for people living near the airport than for those who live in quieter environments. Jim Drury has more.
Living underneath the Heathrow flightpath is noisy.... ....and now British researchers say it can be bad for your health. More than three-and-a-half-million people can hear planes taking off and landing at London's biggest airport on a daily basis. Researchers at London's Imperial College studied hospital admissions and death rates due to stroke and heart disease over a five-year period in the areas most affected. Lead author Dr Anna Hansell says their findings were significant, particularly in areas closest to the airport. SOUNDBITE (English) LEAD AUTHOR OF STUDY ON AIRCRAFT NOISE, ANNA HANSELL, SAYING: "We found around a 10 to 20 percent increased risk of both hospital admissions and deaths from heart disease and stroke, and that was associated both with the highest levels of the daytime noise and the highest levels of the night-time noise." Hansell says aircraft noise can reduce people's sleep and cause anxiety, while repeated exposure to sudden noises can cause what she calls, a 'startle reaction'. SOUNDBITE (English) LEAD AUTHOR OF STUDY ON AIRCRAFT NOISE, ANNA HANSELL, SAYING: "There's a startle reaction when you hear a loud noise, so your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, and it may be that if you're exposed to loud noise over a long period of time that your blood pressure just stays up rather than going back down again to normal." John Stewart, who leads a campaign to prevent further expansion of Heathrow, hopes the survey will lend weight to his cause. SOUNDBITE (English) CHAIR OF AIRCRAFT NOISE CAMPAIGN GROUP HACAN, JOHN STEWART, SAYING: "So many people living under the flight path tell us it affects their health. Sometimes it's people who are woken up every morning when the first plane comes in at five thirty, they can't sleep, they're stressed out. Other times, it's people during a day saying that this constant noise is really getting on their nerves, they're taking tablets, they feel stressed out and, I'm sure, as the study shows, it eventually affects their health." It's not just adults who are affected. Hounslow Heath Primary School has built noise-proof structures in the playground for pupils driven to distraction by aircraft overhead. UPSOT: PLANE ABOVE But not everybody is bothered by the noise. SOUNDBITE (English) HATTON CROSS RESIDENT, CLIVE THORP, SAYING: "I'm 70 now and I've lived here and near here, all my life, and I'm still going strong." SOUNDBITE (English) HOUNSLOW RESIDENT, SAYING: "They put nice windows, it's no noises, you can hear nothing here, it's no problem." A separate study conducted in the US has produced similar results, linking airport noise to higher hospital admission rates. But Anna Hansell says that while the results may be a cause for concern, other factors like smoking and poor diet are far worse.