Studies link aircraft noise to heart ailments

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Two studies linked aircraft noise to higher rates of cardiovascular disease in results that may fuel debate about the effect airports have on their neighbors.

The first study found rates of strokes and heart disease increased with people's proximity to London's Heathrow Airport, Europe's busiest hub. The second found that U.S. seniors on Medicare who were exposed to the most airplane noise were also more likely to have been hospitalized for heart disease. The British Medical Journal published both papers.

The research adds weight to the idea that where you put an airport doesn't just affect neighbors' quality of life, but also their health, Stephen Stansfeld, a psychiatry professor at Barts and the London School of Medicine, wrote in an editorial published alongside the two studies. Heathrow, in particular, has been mired in debate over how to add capacity to London's airports.

"The results imply that the siting of airports and consequent exposure to aircraft noise may have direct effects on the health of the surrounding population," Stansfeld wrote. "Planners need to take this into account when expanding airports in heavily populated areas or planning new airports."