Daniel Fink – djfink01@aol.com
Twitter: @QuietCoalition

Board Chair, The Quiet Coalition
60 Thoreau Street
Concord, MA 01742
United States

The Quiet Coalition is a program of Quiet Communities, Inc., Lincoln, MA, USA

Popular version of 4aNS8-The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows Americans to be exposed to unsafe levels of aviation noise, presented at the 183rd ASA Meeting.

Photo credit: Pixabay 

The American Public Health Association states, “Noise is unwanted and/or harmful sound.” Noise not loud enough to damage hearing causes high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considers noise an annoyance but does not acknowledge the adverse health effects of aircraft noise. Based on the Schultz curve, the FAA adopted 65 dBA Day-Night Level (DNL) as “the threshold for significant aviation noise, below which residential land use is compatible.”  The FAA’s recent Neighborhood Environmental Survey found that many more Americans are annoyed by noise than previously known.

Schultz Curve and Neighborhood Environmental Survey results, showing that many more Americans are annoyed by noise than the Schultz Curve showed. Source: FAA


[I have to tell you a little about the science of sound or noise measurement. The words sound and noise are used interchangeably. Sound is measured in decibels (dB). The decibel scale is logarithmic. This means that a 10 dB increase from 50 to 60 dB indicates 10 times more sound energy, not merely 20% more. Because noise disrupts sleep, DNL measures noise for 24 hours but adds a 10 dB penalty for noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.  A-weighting (dBA) adjusts sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech. A-weighting is not the right measure for aircraft noise because aircraft noise has lower frequencies than speech. A-weighting also reduces unweighted sound measurements by about 20-30 dB.]

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), though, safe noise levels are only 45 dB DNL for indoor noise and 55 dB DNL for outdoor noise. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends lower aircraft noise levels: 45 dB Day-Evening-Night Level (adding a 5 dB penalty for noise between 7-10 p.m.) and 40 dB at night.  Both EPA safe noise levels and WHO recommended aircraft noise levels are obviously much lower than the FAA’s 65 dBA DNL, especially because they use unweighted dB.

Being annoyed or disturbed by aircraft noise is stressful.  Stress increases heart rate and blood pressure. Stress increases blood levels of stress hormones.  Stress causes inflammation of the blood vessel lining. in turn causing cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and heart attacks, and other adverse health effects. Scientific experts think that the evidence is strong enough to establish causality, not merely a statistical association. Epidemiological studies demonstrating these effects have been confirmed by human and animal research. The biological mechanisms are now understood at the cellular, subcellular, molecular, and genetic levels.  Aircraft noise also affects poor and minority communities more than others. Children are also more sensitive to damage from noise, which also interferes with learning.

The FAA insists that more research is needed, but no more research is needed to know that aviation noise is hazardous to health.  The FAA must establish lower noise standards to protect Americans exposed to aircraft noise.