Media Coverage

(QLK4 - CT - 2002 - 02501)

A four year Key action 4 Environment and Health study

1 December 2002 - 30 November 2006


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Few investigators have studied health effects associated with exposure to aircraft noise.  The overall evidence suggests that a weak association exists between long-term noise exposure and high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, but studies to date have shown  contradictory results.  There are some indications that the potential effects of noise on blood pressure may be mediated via stress hormones.

wpe2.jpg (5465 bytes)Previous studies have traditionally considered noise from a single specific source only, such as aircraft or road traffic.  Aircraft noise might be more annoying than road traffic noise, but findings from previous studies are unclear.  Subjective attitudes towards  the noise and the activities disturbed may modify the effect of noise quite considerably.

Several studies have shown excess risk of cardiovascular disease associated with air pollution.  Airports act as hotspots for both air pollution and noise.  Therefore, it may be important to consider exposure to ambient air pollution as a possible confounder/effect modifier of the association between community noise and high blood pressure/cardiovascular disease.  The main source of noise, however, tends to derive from aircraft movements, while much of the air pollution is associated with road transport generated by the airports.


The overall project aim is to assess the impacts on cardiovascular health of noise generated by aircraft and road traffic.  The project will evaluate the modifying effects of air pollution on noise associated cardiovascular effects, and will analyse the difference in blood pressure resulting from different noise exposure patterns.  The role of annoyance and sleep disturbances due to noise, on blood pressure, will be assessed, and the impact of aircraft and road traffic noise on stress hormone levels will be investigated.  Acute changes in blood pressure following short-term changes in noise levels will be assessed.

The specific objectives are:

  • To analyse the exposure-response relationships in adults between long-term exposure to airport related noise and high blood pressure.

  • To evaluate the modifying effects of traffic related air pollution (NO2, PM) on noise associated cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease.

  • To analyse the difference in blood pressure resulting from different noise exposure patterns.

  • To assess the possible modifying effects by annoyance and sleep disturbances due to road and aircraft noise, on blood pressure.

  • To analyse the impact of aircraft and road traffic noise on stress hormone levels.

  • To analyse the effects of noise exposure on high blood pressure in susceptible subgroups of the population.

  • To provide scientific basis and support for guidelines for a European policy on noise abatement.



The project includes cross-sectional studies near major airports in Germany (Berlin Tegel), Greece (Athens), Italy (Milano Malpensa), the Netherlands (Amsterdam Schiphol), Sweden (Stockholm Arlanda) and the UK (London Heathrow), including a total of 6,000 study subjects.

The studies will use uniform methods for the assessment of noise exposure and health effects (blood pressure, ischaemic heart disease). Stress hormones will be determined in saliva and disturbance/annoyance will be investigated using questionnaires.  Exposure to air pollution will be assessed at selected airports.  Random effects models allowing for repeated measurements in selected individuals will be used to assess short-term changes in blood pressure following changes in noise levels.  A pooled analysis and an overall evaluation of the results will be undertaken.

The studies are conducted in the vicinity of airports with a wide range of exposures, from low to high levels of noise exposure from different sources, which will allow for detailed analyses of exposure-response relationships for the general population as well as for susceptible subgroups.


Site Manager David Stokes
Email: d.stokes@imperial.ac.uk