The Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2017 makes for some intersting reading. The Summary says that there are many pollutants “which have been shown to have a significant negative impact on human health”. Governmental standards for pollution should be more stringent over the next 5 years, says the Report. On Noise the Report says “noise comes second in burden of disease to air pollution and arguably is responsible for more disturbance of quality of life”. Notably for us the CMO has said on reducing noise “More easily achievable source reductions include airport night curfews”. Now how does Heathrow feel about that?
Here are some notable extracts from the Annual Report 2017
Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2017
Noise pollution and the burden of ill health – In order to assess the magnitude of the effects of environmental noise exposure on health the WHO published the burden of disease from environmental noise in Europe, based on noise exposure, the distribution of exposure and existing exposure-response relationships. 61,000 DALYs [disability-adjusted life year] were attributed to ischaemic heart disease [when arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reaches the heart muscle] based on hypertension and IHD outcomes, 45,000 DALYs to cognitive impairment in children and young people, aged 7-19 years, 903,000 DALYs to sleep disturbance, 22,000 DALYs to tinnitus, and 654,000 DALYs for annoyance.
In terms of the health effects of environmental pollution in Europe, environmental noise comes second in burden of disease to air pollution and arguably is responsible for more disturbance of quality of life. Environmental noise is also responsible for more life years lost than other significant environmental pollutants such as lead, ozone and dioxins.
What can be done to reduce noise exposure and consequent health effects?
Interventions to reduce population noise exposure can be considered at several steps along the pathway from the noise source to the receiver. Reduction of noise at source is an ideal but often expensive solution such as designing quieter cars and aircraft and the provision of sound absorbing tarmac to reduce tyre noise or grinding rail tracks to reduce noise.
More easily achievable source reductions include airport night curfews, changes in numbers of flights from airports and changes in traffic flows on motorways. Interventions between the source and the receiver, such as sound insulation of windows or noise barriers along roads and railways have been shown to be effective in reducing levels of noise exposure. New/closed infrastructure interventions include closure of flight paths, introduction of bypasses and urban planning control such as the avoidance of new buildings, especially sensitive buildings such as schools, close to noise sources. Other physical interventions include the availability of a quiet side to dwellings exposed to road traffic noise which has been shown to reduce annoyance and the availability of green space for psychological restoration. Education/ communication interventions help to educate people to change behaviour to reduce noise exposure or to explain the reasons for noise changes which may help to reduce community annoyance levels.
At the level of public policy the European Noise Directive requires EU states to map noise levels in urban agglomerations and develop action plans to reduce noise levels in the highest exposed areas. This has focused attention on noise as an issue, with increasing effort to standardise data collection across countries, but there is still incomplete data from many areas. In England, the Noise Policy Statement for England sets out the long-term vision of government noise policy to promote good health and a good quality of life through management of noise. Its aims are to avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life, mitigate and minimise adverse effects and where possible contribute to the improvement of health and quality of life.
Then on nanomaterials, which are prevalent around airports [“Organic ultrafine particles are formed in aircraft and diesel engines due to incomplete combustion, and in the surrounding air as condensates. Aircraft engines are believed to be a key source to inorganic sulphate particles due to the high sulphur content in jet fuel” Air Pollution in Airports published by the Danish Ecocouncil]
Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2017
Nanomaterials (NMs) are generally regarded as materials that have one or more dimensions of less than 100 nanometres
in size. At this size range, the materials have very different properties from their equivalent ‘bulk’ material and consequently NMs are now being used in a wide range of products including cosmetics, paints and coatings, medicines and medical devices, water treatment technologies and agrochemicals. Release of NMs into the natural environment is inevitable. Emission pathways include: entry to air from vehicle exhausts; entry to surface waters from down-the-drain chemicals that are released to the sewerage system or from runoff from highways and buildings; entry to soils through direct application of agrochemicals and the applications of sewage sludge to land as a fertiliser. NMs may also occur naturally in the environment or be formed from the breakdown of larger man-made particles such as plastics and polymers.
The analysis of NMs in environmental matrices is challenging – due to their size – so much of the work done to quantify concentrations of these materials in the environment has involved the use of models. Predictions from these modelling exercises suggest that highest concentrations of NMs in surface waters will be in the tens of microgrammes per litre range in surface waters, tens of mg kg-1 range in soils and 100s of ng m-3 in the air compartment.
Consumers will be exposed to residues of NMs in the environment through breathing contaminated air, the consumption of contaminated soil or drinking water, or through skin contact with contaminated soil or water. NMs can also be accumulated by plants, fish and shellfish, so exposure from consumption of contaminated food items may also occur. While it is inevitable that human exposure to residues of NMs in the environment is occurring, there is less direct evidence of this. The only experimental evidence of such exposures comes from studies that used magnetic analyses and electron microscopy to demonstrate the presence of magnetite nanoparticles in the human brain. They proposed that the most likely source of these particles was from airborne particulate matter pollution.