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Heathrow Airport: 'Aircraft noise could be hampering children's education'

More than 460 schools around Heathrow are exposed to noise levels which may impair pupils' learning and memory, a new report claims

Noise may be affecting the studies of children at 460 schools around Heathrow, a new report claims

Aircraft noise could be impairing the education of tens of thousands of pupils at schools around Heathrow , a new report claims.

People living under the flight path are also significantly more prone to stroke an heart disease, according to a study by the Aviation Environment Federation.

Its report on the health impacts of aircraft noise, which was published today, suggests the wellbeing of more than one million people across the UK could be at risk.

The key findings of the report, launched on Tuesday January 12 by Tania Mathias, the Conservative MP for Twickenham, include:

  • People exposed to high levels of aircraft noise had a 24% higher chance of stroke, 21% higher chance of heart disease, and 14% higher chance of cardiovascular diseases compared to people exposed to low levels of aircraft noise
  • A recent large study around Frankfurt Airport in Germany found that a 10 decibel increase in noise is associated with an 8.9% increase in the risk of depression
  • Over 460 schools around Heathrow are exposed to aircraft noise levels that may impair learning and memory, but Heathrow has so far insulated only 42 community buildings
  • In the UK close to 600,000 people are exposed to night-time aircraft noise levels far above World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations

The report, which was commissioned by anti-Heathrow expansion campaign group HACAN, calls on the government to postpone any decision on new runways until the potential health impact has been fully reviewed.

"Shocking but not surprising"

HACAN chairman John Stewart said: "These findings are shocking but not surprising. Aircraft noise is having a major impact on people's health.

"HACAN is calling on the government to postpone any decision on new runways until a full health assessment has been carried out on each proposal. Today HACAN is setting up the Heathrow Health Alliance to monitor progress."

However, the report was dismissed by the pro-Heathrow expansion lobbying group Back Heathrow.

HACAN chairman John Stewart

Rob Gray, the group's campaign director, said: "A report by an anti-aviation pressure group commissioned by an anti-Heathrow expansion campaign must be viewed with a degree of suspicion.

"Heathrow's noise footprint has shrunk dramatically in recent years but the airport’s operators should take note of any valid, independent proposals to reduce environmental impacts during what has become the most popular period of air travel in history."

Heathrow welcomes the report

Heathrow welcomed the report, which it said would aid ongoing efforts to reduce the noise experienced by the airport's neighbours.

"Heathrow is a huge source of prosperity and employment, and therefore wellbeing, for thousands of local people," said a Heathrow spokeswoman.

"We recognise that any airport has its downsides and we already have an excellent track record in reducing and tackling noise. As a result the airport is quieter now than at any other time since the 1970s.

"We want to be a good neighbour and we continue to focus our efforts to reduce noise by working collaboratively with local stakeholders and pressure groups such as HACAN to find new and innovative ways to decrease our impacts.

Heathrow has funded adobe huts - used elsewhere as earthquake shelters - to combat aircraft noise at schools

"We welcome the report launched today which will further add to our overall understanding and efforts to bring about the objective we share with AEF and others of making Heathrow quieter."

Heathrow also highlighted the measures already being taken to reduce aircraft noise, which include fitting planes with 'low-noise technology', penalising airlines for using noisier jets, and funding adobe huts - commonly used as earthquake shelters - to accommodate outdoor lessons at schools.

The AEF is an organisation which campaigns about the environmental impacts of aviation, including noise, air pollution and climate change.

The Airports Commission has recommended a third runway at Heathrow, provided a number of conditions can be met.

A government decision on whether a new landing strip should be built at Heathrow or Gatwick is expected this summer, after it was postponed for six months by David Cameron.

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