Excessive Air Traffic Noise May Cause Millions In Health Care Costs For Residents Living Near BWI, New Study Shows

An airplane takes off at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Photo by Gregola S. via Flickr.

What’s happening?

A recent study from the University of Maryland found that Baltimore residents living near the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport could shoulder $800 million in health care costs over 30 years, resulting from health conditions caused by the air traffic noise, Scott Maucione reports for WYPR. Other studies have shown that excessive noise can cause anxiety, cardiovascular issues, sleep deprivation, and low birthweight among children.

Why do researchers estimate medical costs to be so high? 

Researchers included both direct and indirect health care costs in their estimate, which include pharmaceuticals, doctor appointments, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations, as well as productivity loss and time off work used to treat these conditions, said the study’s author and UMD School of Pharmacy assistant professor Zafar Zafari.

Residents living even 10 miles away from the airport could experience these medical consequences, especially due to BWI’s increased air traffic volume thanks to a new satellite system called the NextGen Air Transportation System. Thousands of planes now fly over some neighborhoods in Baltimore, and the noise from this air travel can reach up to 69 decibels—which is similar to holding a hair dryer to your ear. 

“There needs to be a public health intervention,” said Jesse Chancellor, a member of the advisory committee tasked with reducing the noise. “You have to balance the tremendous economic benefit the airport provides to the region. The jobs, the access, everything we all value here against the public health.”

Anything else I should know?

Maryland secured $4 million in federal funds earlier this year to reduce the effects of excessive air traffic noise caused by the new system, though the advisory committee has not yet enacted any measures.  
You can read more here.

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