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Exposure to aircraft noise increases risk of health problems

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)


Mainz, Germany (dpa) - Research carried out by German and US scientists has shown a medical link between night-time aircraft noise and increased blood pressure.

The study involving 75 healthy men and women revealed that nocturnal noise stimulated the release of the stress hormone adrenalin and restricted the blood vessels.

"We know that aircraft noise can result in high blood pressure and lead to heart attacks or strokes," said study director Thomas Muenzel from the Mainz University Hospital.

While the exact mechanism that causes these cardiovascular illnesses has yet to be uncovered, the scientists have called for political conclusions to be drawn in the wake of the findings.

As part of the study, the 75 test subjects were exposed each night to aircraft noise of around 60 decibels in their own bedrooms.

One group endured 30 overflights per night while another group had to sleep through 60 overflights. A third control group slept without any noise. The researchers filmed the test persons with infrared cameras and measured vascular function with the help of ultrasound equipment.

Undisturbed sleep of sufficient length is obligatory for the maintenance of daytime performance and health. According to the scientists, sleep disturbance and especially sleep restriction could lead to a future development of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers were surprised to find that humans did not adapt to night-time flight noise. The increase from 30 to 60 overflights per night resulted in a significant deterioration in cardiovascular function than that shown for those test subjects who had to endure 60 overflights from the very start.

"This means that a person does not adapt to aircraft noise by exposure to more sound. Instead the level of vascular damage appears to increase," explained Muenzel.

The study also showed that vascular damage can be treated with vitamin C as it binds the free radicals that have formed in the blood as a result of the noise.

"This naturally does not mean that vitamin C can simply be used to cure to effects of aircraft noise," said study lead author Frank Schmidt from the Mainz Medical University.

Further studies into the long-term effects of aircraft noise are already ongoing with further results expected by the summer of 2014.

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