TAG writes to the Department of Health on effects of aviation on health



We asked the Department of Health what role they have in assessing the impact of aviation noise on public health and whether they have any influence over the Government’s aviation policy, which is developed by the Department for Transport. Below are our original questions and the Department of Health’s response.


Thank you for your letter of 17th February concerning the role of the Department of Health in aviation policy and health. Public Health England (PHE) provides advice and input into noise related health matters for the Department of Health, including aviation policy and therefore they have provided answers below to the questions you raised in your letter.


1. Does the Department of Health currently have any ongoing role, either directly or indirectly through its partner heath organisations, in assessing the public health impacts of aviation noise and aviation policies?

a) In 2014 PHE was represented on the Inter-Governmental Group on the Costs and Benefits of Noise, which informed the policy appraisal guidance document “Environmental Noise: Valuing impacts on: sleep disturbance, annoyance, hypertension, productivity and quiet.”

b) PHE is working with the Department of Transport (DfT) in the following areas:

i) Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014 (a field study investigating noise attitudes of people living close to airports) – PHE is represented on the project board that oversees the methodology and overall progress

ii) Airport Capacity Appraisal of Sustainability – PHE is steering the Health Impact Assessment process.

iii) Night Flight Restrictions consultation – PHE is providing ad-hoc advice to DfT on the
evidence base.

2. Has the Department of Health had any involvement with the design of the Government’s Future Airspace Strategy?

PHE has not yet had any involvement with the design of the Government’s Future Airspace Strategy.

3. In light of the latest research, as summarised in the AEF report Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear, what plans does the Department of Health have to ensure that the impacts of aviation on public health are properly assessed and that the detrimental impact on public health is minimised wherever possible? 

PHE plans to continue its engagement with the Department of Transport, by providing evidence-based advice. To be able to do this, PHE will continually monitor the scientific evidence on the health effects of aviation noise, and promote research to further our understanding, particularly on the effectiveness of interventions to protect and improve health.

Dr Felicity Harvey

Director General for Public and International Health


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  1. mo williams
    4th April 2016

    Where is the ‘scientific evidence on the health effects of aviation noise’ that they’re ‘monitoring’ coming from? I see no requests from government or PHE for people to step forward and be examined ‘scientifically’ or give their experience or their own assessment on their own health. The issue can be easily ignored because it’s almost impossible to gather ‘scientific’ evidence without monitoring people’s physical and mental responses during the noise ‘attacks’.

  2. DF
    3rd April 2016

    Interesting to read these postings. When complaining about the noise of low-flying A380s over the house, I never get an answer from Heathrow as to whether they are flying at or below their permitted levels. It’s impossible to hold airlines to account.

  3. 2nd April 2016

    The aircraft industry, the airlines, the airports and everyone they lobby have no real interest in reducing the noise impact of aircraft. That newer, larger aircraft need to fly lower for longer for landing and take-off, and create more noise pollution, tells you all you need to know. It is technologically feasible to fit noise reduction devices to aircraft, and easy to require aircraft landing before 8am or after 10pm to have them fitted, but it will never happen. Despite years of lobbying, environmental groups have to accept that things have only got worse over the years. One can only guess if things would have been even worse without the lobbying.

  4. Megan Arnold
    2nd April 2016

    The response to Q2 says it all! How can that be possible in 2016?

  5. alastair eperon
    2nd April 2016

    We should be told what advice specifically PHE has provided regarding proposals to expand airport capacity, differentiated between the “options” and recommendations being considered by the Government. Can TAG ask for this?

    • Katie
      4th April 2016

      Hi Alastair, yes we can ask. Whether they respond is another matter! Katie, TAG

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