Aircraft noise associated with hypertension and organ damage

Sophia Antipolis – 15 June 2016: Long term exposure to aircraft noise is associated with hypertension and organ damage, reveals research presented today at the EuroPRevent 2016 meeting by Marta Rojek, a researcher at Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland.1

“The volume of air traffic has skyrocketed since jet powered planes were introduced in the 1960s,” said Ms Rojek. “According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, there were 64 million take-offs and landings in 2013 and this figure is set to double in the next 20 years.”2

She continued: “The steady growth in air traffic and expansion of airports, along with the development of residential areas near airports, has led to more people being exposed to aircraft noise. There is emerging data to suggest that exposure to aircraft noise may increase the risk of hypertension, particularly at night, and of hospitalisation for cardiovascular diseases – but more evidence is needed.”3,4,5
The current study assessed the impact of aircraft noise on the development of hypertension and associated asymptomatic organ damage. It included 201 randomly selected adults aged 40 to 66 years who had lived for more than three years in an area with high or low aircraft noise. Of these, 101 were exposed to more than 60 decibels (dB) of aircraft noise on average and 100 were exposed to less than 55 dB and acted as a control group.

For the analysis, the researchers matched the groups in pairs by gender, age, and amount of time living in the area. All participants had their blood pressure measured. Asymptomatic organ damage was assessed by measuring stiffness of the aorta6 and the mass and function of the left ventricle.

The investigators found that the group who lived in an area of high aircraft noise had more hypertension than those who lived in a low aircraft noise area (40% versus 24%). They also had higher systolic (146 versus 138 mmHg) and diastolic (89 versus 79 mmHg) blood pressure than the control group.

When they looked at the indicators of asymptomatic organ damage, the researchers found that those who lived near high aircraft noise had stiffer aorta and higher left ventricular mass. The measurements of left ventricular function were less conclusive.

Our results suggest that living near an airport for three years or more is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and hypertension,” said Ms Rojek. “These changes may then lead to damage of the aorta and heart which could increase the risk of having a heart attack.”

She added: “European Union regulations say that countries must assess and manage environmental noise7, and there are national laws on aircraft noise. Poland stipulates a maximum of 55 dB around schools and hospitals and 60 dB for other areas. Noise can be kept below those levels by using only noise-certified aircraft, redirecting flight paths, keeping airports away from homes, and avoiding night flights.”

Ms Rojek concluded: “More work is needed to enforce laws on exposure to aircraft noise as it is detrimental to our health. We also need further research to understand how the damage occurs and whether it can be reversed.”

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