Photo credit: Isabella Mendes

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

For years now we have had studies that have linked aircraft noise to adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disorders, that result in increased risks for hospitalization. In both my writings and lectures, I have noted that increased hospitalizations for individuals living with the noise of overhead aircraft also indicate that aircraft noise is financially costly to our citizens. Furthermore, I have also written that children who attend schools that are impacted by road, rail, or aircraft noise have fallen behind in learning and to remediate this loss in learning is also financially costly to our citizens. Thus, it was not surprising to read that a University of Maryland study found that the negative health effects of controversial flight paths of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airport will cost Marylanders “in excess of $40 million per year over the next 30 years.” I thank the authors for this important study.

The NextGen flight program has clearly been costly to the health and pocket books of Marylanders but as this news release from the Howard County Council indicates the FAA “has made it clear that they are not going to substantially change NextGen.” We can also safely assume that the NextGen program is similarly affecting residents in other parts of the country. How will communities deal with the harms and costs brought about by NextGen? Debbie MacDonald, chairperson of the BWI Roundtable says that they will have to seek funds to go “beyond wall insulation and window treatments.” Shouldn’t the number of flights, especially nighttime flights, be curbed suggested a Howard County Councilmember.

The county’s news release rightfully points out that the Federal government needs to introduce legislation that can better deal with aircraft noise and this includes changing the metrics to assess aircraft noise. Also, it calls on giving the Environmental Protection Agency greater authority in regulating particulate matter from aviation activities. I would add that the EPA should also be given greater authority regarding noise pollution as well.

Ultimately, this news release suggests ways to reduce aircraft noise but what is still lacking is the will to do so. How do we go about instilling this “will?”