Living In a Flight Path Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Too much noise pollution from jet planes can impact heart health.Noise pollution from airplanes flying low over residential areas may be unhealthy for the heart.  This is the finding of a study of 4.9 million adults in Switzerland, which determined that death by heart attack was more widespread among people who lived under noisy flight paths.  “The effect was especially evident for people who were exposed to really high levels of noise, and was dependent on how long those people had lived in the noisy place,” said Matthias Egger, a University of Bern researcher.

Although this isn’t the first time that noise pollution from planes has been linked to cardiovascular risk, the new study could determine if other factors – such as air quality – are a contributing factor.  “It’s been a problem when you look at road traffic noise, there are both high levels of noise and high levels of air pollution,” Egger said.  “By looking at airports, we were in a position to disentangle these effects.”  Egger and his research team identified 15,532 deaths from heart attacks among 4.6 million Swiss residents between late 2000 and the end of 2005 with detailed information from a mortality study called the Swiss National Cohort.

The research team studied government records and environmental data to determine how close people lived to airports and highways, as well as how much particulate matter was in the air in these areas.  As a result, the researchers identified how much aircraft noise and air pollution each person experienced over 15 years.  Factoring in such elements as exposure to air pollution, education and income, the researchers determined that the level and duration of airplane noise increased the risk of suffering a heart attack.  “Noise probably does have effects on health and it is important that we gain a better understanding of these,” Egger concluded, noting that additional research is needed.

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