Night flights are detrimental to our health: noise pollution causes us heart problems, obesity and even a learning disability (Zaventem)

Night flights are detrimental to our health: noise pollution causes us heart problems, obesity and even a learning disability (Zaventem)
Night flights are detrimental to our health: noise pollution causes us heart problems, obesity and even a learning disability (Zaventem)
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The Superior Health Council (SHC) has released a new report in which it warns of the negative consequences of air traffic on our health. Night flights in particular are particularly affected. In 2023, 16,284 aircraft flew at Brussels Airport between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Most are cargo flights, operated with old, noisy aircraft.

But, the SHC emphasizes: these figures underestimate the problem, because thousands of flights still take place between 6 and 7 am. A time when many people are still in dreamland. In 2019, this involved 10,029 flights. The SHC takes 2019 as the reference year, because the corona crisis has thoroughly shaken up flight traffic. “2019 is a good reference year because air traffic is expected to recover in that order of magnitude,” says professor of environment and health Greet Schoeters (UAntwerp).

READ ALSO.Nobody happy with a permit for Zaventem airport? “They have already put the champagne cold in Charleroi and Liège”

The data collected by the SHC shows that in 2019, 163,518 local residents were exposed to more than ten aircraft at night that produced a maximum noise pollution of 60 decibels. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the decibel level should ideally remain below 40 at night.

The result: a disturbed night’s sleep for thousands of people. “In the short term, this has negative consequences for memory, metabolism and general daytime performance,” says Schoeters. In the long term, it can contribute to chronic conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Some studies even see a link with an increased risk of cancer. Serious sleep disturbance occurred in 32.3 percent of participants in a WHO study at noise levels of 60 decibels. (Read more below the photo)

The data collected by the SHC shows that in 2019, 163,518 local residents were exposed to more than ten aircraft at night that produced a maximum noise pollution of 60 decibels. — © Shutterstock

Depression

But aircraft also work on our system during the day. High average noise pollution – in concrete terms: above the WHO standard of 45 decibels – is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. There are even consequences for the development of children, according to a study in 29 primary schools around Frankfurt/Main airport. A 20 decibel increase in noise pollution was associated with a two-month delay in reading skills.

A 20 decibel increase in noise pollution was associated with a two-month delay in reading skills

The ultra-fine dust emitted by aircraft also does us no good. In the short term, it can lead to reduced lung function and changes in our heart rhythm. In the long term, there is a connection with more cardiovascular disease, but also with negative birth outcomes such as lower birth weight.

The SHC’s advice will undoubtedly reignite the political discussion about the flights around Zaventem. Last year, Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo), Minister of Mobility, proposed abolishing night flights altogether, but he did not find sufficient support among his coalition partners. The SHC is now also calling for a ban on night aircraft. “That’s what we’re most concerned about,” says Schoeters. “But some strategic measures must also be taken during the day to limit nuisance for local residents, such as not encouraging further urbanization around the airport.”

The article is in Dutch

Belgium

Tags: Night flights detrimental health noise pollution heart problems obesity learning disability Zaventem

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