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How airport noise destroys your health

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When thinking about pollution, the vast majority of people think immediately about issues such as e.g. smog or carbon footprint while few of us associate it with noise. The exception to this rule are surely those who live in the immediate proximity of airports and are painfully aware of the consequences of noise pollution.

Health-related consequences of noise

According to the assessments of EU, some 80 million of its citizens (which is 20% of its population) are exposed to the noise level considered unhealthy. Noise does not just generate a sensation of discomfort. It may have serious consequences. What may be these consequences?

  • sleep difficulties
  • changes in digestive patterns
  • changes in blood pressure (probably higher risk for coronary diseases and stroke)
  • impairment of professional and academic performance

These health problems are documented in studies, such as – higher blood pressure in children in the proximity of Los Angeles International (LAX) or another study showing there being a relation between the cardiovascular levels in kids living near Munich (MUC) and noise exposure.

On this background it should not be any surprise that reducing the noise pollution is among the most important objectives of the EU transport policy. The EU sees the protection against noise pollution as the protection of some fundamental rights.

The European Union steps in

The full – and terribly long – name of the legal act dealing with the issue of noise is „Directive 2002/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 March 2002 on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports“

The aim of the directive is described as „Management of noise at Community airports“. It allows for stricter noise standards while still not preventing airports from developing. The directive also allows measures for the abatement of airport noise to be adopted.

Many of us are used to thinking of the EU regulations as tons of paper with little bearing on the real world. It turns out they may be used as the legal foundation for actions aimed at changing unfavourable conditions. In 2007 European Air Transport, a part of the DHL-groupe whose aircraft operate from Airport Brussels, was imposed a penalty of €56113 for exceeding the noise level.

Shining example

A good example of an initiative leading to noise reductions are the new traffic rules governing the passenger traffic in Oslo Airport in Norway where a innovating arrival route system has been introduced recently.

Aircraft arriving at and departing the airport will follow so-called traffic corridors regardless of altitude which will allow them to avoid the the most densely populated areas. Under periods with particularly high traffic, aircraft head for the so-called point merge situated 40 km away from the airport.

The new regulation divides also the day into three periods with specific restrictions for the use of runways each. Oslo Airport is a hub to SAS, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Widerøe. It is the largest airport in Norway.


  • Alex

    about 5 years ago

    I wonder what this does for increased fuel consumption and flight time?

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