Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why aren't my children doing better at school, why's my blood pressure rising, what's this ringing in my ears?

London City Airport are almost as optimistic bunch as we are, but mostly on very different issues: they claim in the planning application that the noise increase from 120,000 jets overhead will be 'minimal' (see we told you that 'minimal was a word they liked to use!).

Environment noise is measured by decibels. A recent noise report called ANASE stated that the sound level that 'significant annoyance' occurs is at 50db levels. However LCA don't like that result so are ignoring the studies findings and are going for the ANIS report from the 1980's which presents a much more favourable light on the noise levels that they even currently inflict upon us in East/South East London aviation land.
Pictured above - LCA plane flying over new Thames Gateway developments in Greenwich, just across the river from the runway.

To residents and schoolchildren there is nothing 'minimal' about even a 3db increase on the current unacceptable noise levels that communities already suffer from. Add a jet flying over/taking off/landing at 90 second intervals which measure from 78db upwards and you might just get an idea of how noisy it is.

Do you hear what I hear?

We've been looking into the effects on us mere mortals of loud noise (from aircraft) and have found some very worrying findings. For instance did you know that high levels of aircraft noise :

  • increase blood pressure

  • is a major factor in hearing loss with repeated exposure

  • can result in tinnitus?

  • cause heart disease

  • cause immune deficiencies

  • cause neurodermatitus

  • cause asthma

  • cause stress related diseases

(S. Rosen and P. Olin, Hearing loss and coronary heart disease, Archives of Otolaryngology, 82:236 (1965)

Some of these were obvious, but others are a surprise to us and we find it astounding that so little attention has been paid to the issue of hearing loss, tinnitus, blood pressure and the other diseases in Newham and the surrounding boroughs under the flight paths. From what we've seen, the health reports are flaky to say the least - but we may re-visit those and see if we can pull out anything worthwhile for a follow up blog article on this. But bearing in mind that LCA don't like to share the flight path maps then we can see why neighbouring boroughs/health authorities would find it difficult to make connections between illness and aircraft noise.

How's your child getting on at school?

In a 22-78db environment children were found to:

  • be less likely to be able to solve a challenging puzzle and persist at it so well

  • teachers had difficulty in motivating children in their school work

  • children showed less tolerance for frustration

  • have problems with memory tasks

  • suggested negative effects on children's academic performance

  • negative effect on children's reading skills

  • children with learning disabilities may be even more susceptible to the negative effects of chronic noise exposure

Further research by Evans & Maxwell (1997) identified a link between chronic noise exposure and reading. The noise source was a nearby airport; planes flew over the school on an average of every 6 minutes resulting in classroom decibel levels of 90. In this study children in the noisy school had poorer reading skills than children from the quiet school.

Chronic exposure to noise has been shown to be harmful to children of various ages. It can have especially detrimental effects on younger children when language and discrimination skills are forming.

All quotes taken from research document:

The schools in and around the Royal Docks all fit within these noise levels: Brittania Village Primary, Calverton, Drew Road Primary School, Keir Hardie Primary School, Rosetta Primary School. Those nearer to the airport suffer the worst noise levels of all and also often the kerosene fumes from the Jet Centre. Playing outside and having school windows open must be a real luxury in those occasional quiet, flight free slots that are still present in the week days - but not for long. It's tough enough being a child today - but faced with increasing unacceptable noise levels, and the threat of noise induced illness is hardly giving them a helping hand. We think this is a shameful situation

Isn't it about time LCA and Newham faced the facts? Flight expansion is not acceptable if it is at the cost of residents health and children's development, nor can noise be mitigated effectively unless you shut children and adults in their homes with sound proofing the standard provided for music recording rooms. Residents and their children deserve better.

It takes more than a few free LCA sandwiches to make up for all the negative impacts in these communities.


Watch out for our next article where we will identify the areas most affected by increasing noise levels and how many more homes will be affected by higher noise levels than before: 'noise levels - the real deal with LCA'