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Views And Reviews

The harms to health caused by aviation noise require urgent action

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 02 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5329
  1. Jangu Banatvala, emeritus professor of clinical virology1,
  2. Martin Peachey, aviation environment federation member2,
  3. Thomas Münzel3
  1. 1King’s College London, UK
  2. 2Bishop’s Stortford, UK
  3. 3Department of Cardiology, University Medical Centre, Mainz, Germany
  1. jangu.banatvala{at}

In 1905, the Nobel prize winning bacteriologist Robert Koch wrote, “The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.”

Koch was before his time and could not have anticipated the rapid growth of aviation and the impact that aviation noise would have on health. In October 2018, the World Health Organization published its new guidelines for environmental noise.1 The guidelines make source specific recommendations for noise from aviation, as well as road, rail, wind turbines, and leisure. They include tough new lower thresholds, reflecting the growing body of evidence about the harmful effects of noise on health.

This matter is not new. In 1999, in an attempt to achieve a balance between health hazards for communities near airports and current and proposed developments, the WHO Charter on Transport and Environmental Health recommended that health of the community should be put first when considering transport since adverse environmental effects fall disproportionately on the vulnerable, particularly children; the infirm; and older people.2 It also recommended the “polluter pays” principle—the commonly …

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