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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 11:06 GMT
Noise 'threat to health'
Aircraft taking off
Aircraft noise can harm health, say experts
Experts will tell a conference on Monday how living with high levels of noise from traffic or neighbours can be damaging to health.

The meeting, at Birmingham's NEC, will hear how noise can disrupt sleep patterns and raise blood pressure.

It comes as a report finds UK roads the most congested in Europe, and with the go-ahead recently granted for a fifth terminal at Heathrow airport, despite fierce opposition from residents under the flightpath.

Research has suggested that one fifth of Europeans are living in areas heavily polluted by high noise levels.

Monica Robb: Needs medication
Some doctors are suggesting that high levels of background noise, such as living by a busy road, could have a long-term health impact.

Professor Deepak Prasher, an audiologist from University College London, is conducting research trying to work out how loud noise pollution has to be before the health effects are severe.

He told the BBC: "At 75 decibels you shouldn't living in that area - it's uninhabitable.

I am sure it's had an effect on my health

Monica Robb
"That is going to have an effect on the immune system, on your heart, and it is possible you may develop hypertension."

However, noise readings alongside many busy roads suggest that this level may be exceeded in many homes in the UK.

Monica Robb lives under the northern flightpath to and from Heathrow Airport.

High blood pressure

She is currently taking medication for high blood pressure which she is convinced is the result of aircraft noise.

She told the BBC: "I get woken up at about 4.30am with the planes coming in to land.

"I take pills for my blood pressure, which has developed over the past six years.

"I can't get back to sleep once I have been woken in this way, and I am sure it's had an effect on my health."

Professor Stephen Stansfeld, a psychologist from Queen Mary's College in London, said that different types and levels of noise annoyed and affected different people.

He said: "The health effects of noise are not really that well worked-out.

"While there are maximum noise levels for aircraft, for road traffic and for thing like clubs and pubs, there really needs to be more legislation, and that is what the EU is working on."

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"In the busiest areas noise could be damaging our health"
Professor Deepak Prasher, University College London
"Noise needs to be taken very seriously as a public health issue"
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