RESEARCH suggesting night flights may be harming the health of residents under the flight path has added weight to demands for a scientific probe into Heathrow.
Councillors in Hounslow have been pushing for a detailed inquiry to find out exactly what impact further expansion at the airport might have on people living under the flight path.
Now a shocking study published by researchers at Imperial College has found a significant link between night-time noise around airports and high blood pressure, which can cause strokes, kidney disease and even dementia.
Lead member for aviation Cllr Barbara Reid said: "Many residents already complain that noise and air pollution affect their health, and this research clearly shows that their concerns are well founded."
Dr Lars Jarup, who led the recent investigation, said after monitoring 5,000 people living near Heathrow and other busy airports, his team had found planes flying overhead caused an average increase of 6.2mmHg in systolic blood pressure.
Typical levels for a healthy adult are around 120mmHg and the World Health Organisation defines high blood pressure as 140mmHg or above.
Despite leading a healthy lifestyle, Margaret Thorburn, of Spencer Road, Isleworth, discovered while participating in the study that she suffered from high blood pressure,
"It's a big concern to know something over which you have no control is affecting your health," said the 53-year-old IT analyst, who has always lived in the borough.
Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for BAA said: "We welcome any study that helps inform our understanding of noise impacts for residents.
"We continue to work with the Government and the industry to make Heathrow's operations quieter where possible."
But the results will confirm the suspicions of some west area residents that living near the airport is damaging their health.
Feltham councillor Barbara Harris said: "Lots of people around here think the airport is making them sick.
"There seems to be a lot of asthma and respiratory cancer in Feltham and Bedfont."
Separate statistics do not exist for the west area but according to Hounslow Primary Care Trust the mortality rate from lung cancer is the same in Hounslow as in the rest of England.
And the percentage of patients on GP registers recorded as having asthma is only 4.5 per cent - 1.8 per cent below the national average.
ANN Keen MP has been forced to defend her record over Heathrow in the face of blistering criticisms from a rival politician.
In a savage attack, Hounslow Council's Tory leader Peter Thompson, pictured below, accused the Mrs Keen of 'opportunism at its most nauseating' over her opposition to expansion.
He told the Chronicle this week: "The only reason she's doing anything now is because others have gained the initiative and she can see the bandwagon leaving without her."
His comments came as the Brentford and Isleworth MP and her husband Alan, MP for Feltham and Heston, hosted a public meeting on Saturday to discuss government plans for a third runway.
But Mrs Keen this week branded the accusations as 'false' and called for Cllr Thompson's resignation.
"I am shocked that someone in such a responsible position would write such a misleading and wholly fabricated letter to the press," she said.
"There is ample evidence already in the public arena to disprove this.
"Parliament regards lying so seriously that members are removed from the chamber immediately if they use the word 'liar' to describe another member.
"I do not have to use that word to describe Cllr Thompson, I have made documents available to the local press and to Cllr Thompson which show some of my campaigning against Runway 3 dates back as far as 2003 - long before I had even heard of Cllr Thompson."
The Chronicle has seen news reports from December 2003 where Mrs Keen said a third runway would be a 'step too far'.
"I am sure that anyone who reads his letter to the local press will be surprised at this needless attack on my integrity and its hysterical tone," she added.
"Cllr Thompson's statement brings his office as leader of the council into disrepute. He must apologise to me and my constituents and step down immediately."