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Living near an airport could impact the health of newborns

Posted at 4:52 PM, Sep 11, 2020

“For people who live right on along the runway where these changes occur and experienced increases in exposure to airplane noise, there’s an increase in adverse birth outcomes and specifically, low birth weight babies,” said Laura Argys, a professor at CU Denver.

Her research shows that living in a flight path can increase the chance of having a child born underweight by approximately 20%.

She explains prolonged exposure to noise can adversely affect the health of people, specifically expectant mothers.

“Exposure to high levels noise changes sort of your stress response, your physical stress response, and it can disrupt sleep, it triggers stress related hormones at higher levels, you get increased heart rate, you get higher blood pressure,” said Argys.

The research was extensive, analyzing a decade worth of births.

“We were able to get birth records for 10 years, so about 100,000 births that happened over that period,” Argys said.

The research takes a look how what the FAA calls NextGen. NextGen is an overhaul of the many different aspects of air traffic, this takes a look at the how NextGen impacts the plane landing.

“It consolidates the flight pattern, they all come in a long the same trajectory, it reduces the time between planes, which means more planes can land, and they can come in at somewhat lower altitudes, obviously above residencies where it increases the noise exposure,”Argys said.

But an industry expert says airlines are doing the best they can to reduce noise.

“Most major airlines, if not all, are very sensitive to the neighbors around the airport. So from take off up to 3,000 feet, most aircraft will climb at the safest, the minimum speed but the safest speed so that when they get to 3,000 feet and reduce the noise tremendously,” said Richard Levy, a retired airline pilot with more than 30 years of experience.

He says safety always has to remain priority number one.

“An airplane lands into the wind, for the safest operation," Levy said.

But that doesn’t mean that the air industry doesn’t take noise into serious consideration.

“Noise location around airports affects communities, property values. You have noise monitors, near the airport. And if an airplane creates too much noise, we say in colloquial terms, it rings the bell,” said Levy.

And Argys says there are a few things you can do as well. Soundproofing your home will help reduce noise while inside and if you’re looking at buying a home near an airport, new construction will likely have better sound proofing material than older ones. She also says local governments should consider not residential areas near airports.

“I know we don’t all like having to drive distances to get to the airport, the a-train helps, so not building residential space near the airport would be one solution,” said Argys.