Comments from Professor Colleen Moore
Submitted to the Dane County Regional Airport Noise Abatement Subcommittee
April, 2004

Dear Chair White:

            Below I present an "executive summary" of the health effects of noise. Most of these effects are not considered by the FAA in regulating aircraft noise, even though these are consensus scientific findings. I am unable to attend the meetings of the Noise Abatement Subcommittee to present these comments in person, so I am submitting this to the committee via email. I would be happy to provide a technical presentation of the basis for the summary below at some future date, or I could send a xerox of the noise chapter from an academic book that covers exactly the points I have covered below. My qualifications for preparing this summary are that I have been teaching about noise impacts as part of one of my courses at the UW-Madison for over 10 years, and I am the author of a recent book that includes the impacts of noise on health.

            As airport traffic grows, noise impacts increase. This is not a matter of a few 'whining' residents who are angry at the airport. The health effects of aircraft noise have been documented in research conducted in many parts of the world. Furthermore, there is no discernible threshold for the effects of noise. Lower noise means better quality of life. Because of the health effects outlined below, any plan that reduces aircraft noise in Madison over the long run should be pursued avidly by the Dane County Board as well as the administrators of the airport. I support the points outlined in the letter from the SASY Neighborhood Association to County Executive Falk in October 2002.

Executive Summary of the Health Impacts of Aircraft Noise

(prepared by Colleen F. Moore, Professor, UW-Psychology Dept., affiliation for information purposes only -- I represent only myself in writing this)

I. Children's reading scores are lower in neighborhoods and schools with high aircraft noise compared to lower noise neighborhoods of comparable socio-economic background. This has been found in the US, Britain, and Germany. The latest data come from a long-term study of children growing up near the new and old airports in Munich, Germany.  Also, school teachers working in high noise schools sometimes have to entirely stop a lesson because of aircraft flyovers.

II. Children in high noise neighborhoods show higher blood pressure and higher stress hormones compared to those from lower noise neighborhoods of comparable socio-economic background. This finding comes from studies near LA International Airport and also from the Munich airport studies.

III. The Health Council of the Netherlands reviewed research in 1999 and concluded that, in addition to having a negative effect on children's school performance, that aircraft noise is also linked to hypertension, ischemic heart disease, sleep disturbance, and negative mood as a result of sleep disruption in adults. The United Kingdom Institute for Environment and Health drew similar conclusions about noise and health in 1997.

IV. The FAA's standard way of assessing the community impact of noise is inadequate. The FAA uses the "Schultz curve" for predicting noise annoyance from noise exposure. From the Schultz curve, the FAA has concluded that a cutoff of DNL 65 is equivalent to a 'noise impact'.  The Schultz curve fails to separate different sources of transportation noise, fails to consider the fact that speech is disrupted at noise levels below 65, fails to consider peak noise events, and totally omits the health effects I have listed above in items I, II and III except for sleep disturbance. The Schultz curve has been rejected as inadequate by the best recent research on noise annoyance. The latest comprehensive meta-analysis of noise annoyance (published in 1998) has concluded that the FAA's Schultz curve underestimates noise annoyance by approximately 10 dB. The implication of all of this is that Dane County should seek to implement operational changes at the airport that will minimize the impacts of noise on the health of residents.

More information is available from Professor Moore at: