Plane noise link to heart disease sparks warning
Findings linking aircraft noise to increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes has led to a call for Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to review the Planning Agreement for George Best Belfast City Airport.
East Belfast GP and councillor Dr John Kyle also appealed to the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health to work together to investigate the impact of aircraft noise on health of people living nearby.
The study, which has just been published in the British Medical Journal, found the risk of being admitted to hospital because of a stroke or heart disease was linked to the level of aircraft noise to which an individual was exposed.
The higher the level of noise, the more likely it was that they would be admitted to hospital with one of those conditions.
The researchers also found a significant link between the risk of dying of heart disease and daytime exposure to aircraft noise.
The greater the level of noise, the greater was the risk of dying from the condition.
The results were adjusted to allow for other factors, such as deprivation and the existing risk of dying from lung cancer. Dr Kyle said his patients living near the airport say aircraft noise intrudes on their daily lives.
"I think given the close proximity of the airport to large residential areas, the DOE and DOH need to take a look at the potential health impact in Belfast," he said.
"I also think they need to review the terms and conditions of the present Planning Agreement.
"We do all recognise the economic benefits of the airport to Belfast, but it has to be tempered with protecting the welfare of residents in close proximity to the airport. We can't sacrifice them on the altar of economic benefits."
Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, said: "The City Airport's own figures show that more than 8,500 local people are impacted by aircraft noise at a level which the UK government considers likely to cause significant annoyance.
"This study confirms that there could well be significant health impacts, regardless of residents' views on the noise issue.
"That's entirely unfair on the people who live under the flight paths and it's also unfair on the taxpayer footing the bill for hospital admissions which, in some cases, may be avoidable."
A spokesman for the George Best Belfast City Airport said: "Attempting to link a report relating to one of the world's busiest airports to Belfast City Airport is scaremongering in the extreme.
"Heathrow handles the same number of passengers in 11 days that Belfast City Airport does in 365 days.
"The only link between Heathrow and Belfast City is the nine daily services offered by our partner airlines.
"Thankfully, Belfast City Airport has excellent relationships with the local community it serves and protects residents from the effects of noise with strict operating hours, no night-time flights, no large nor wide bodied aircraft and no cargo planes. This will not change with the removal of the seats for sale limit."