Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image HEALTH MATTERS

Health and Climate Change

There is growing recognition that increased air travel and climate change will have a significant bearing on global health. An editorial co-authored by SSE's adviser on health issues, Professor Jangu Banatvala, in the British Medical Journal in February 2013 summarises many of the key issues. The editorial can be obtained on the BMJ website at bmj.com. A pdf version can be seen here.


Recent Research
Health and Airports
The 1999 WHO Charter
The Effects of Noise on Children
Air Quality
Climate Change and Health in the UK
Worldwide Health Effects of Global Warming
What the Government Says About The Health Effects of Climate Change
Social Capital


Recent Research

A report entitled 'Environmental Noise and Health in the UK' has recently been prepared in response to increasing public concern about possible adverse effects of noise on health and comments were invited by the Health Protection Agency in mid 2009. Read the report online, and SSE's own response to it, by clicking on the links below:

Environmental Noise and Health in the UK
SSE's comments on Environmental Noise and Health in the UK

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Health and Airports

If you're new to the issue of health effects arising from airports and aircraft, the best introduction can be found in an article in the internationally respected medical journal The Lancet entitled Unhealthy Airports, written by Professor Jangu Banatvala, Chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion's Health Working Group. Professor Banatvala also submitted a Memorandum to the Parliamentary Public Bill Committee (Climate Change Sub Committee) in July 2008 on the Health Effects of Climate Change and the Role of Aviation.

The notes in this section give a summary introduction to concerns in the context of current policy and the latest thinking on health issues. Professor Banatvala has also prepared a paper on health impact assessments which explains the factors which need to be considered in more depth.

Health impact assessments have been called for in the Government's Air Transport White Paper in respect of proposals to expand UK airports including Stansted and will be submitted by BAA in respect of both the application to expand capacity on the existing runway, and on the proposed second runway. Professor Banatvala can be contacted through Stop Stansted Expansion.

SSE Response to the HIA Covering Letter
SSE Response to the Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

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The 1999 WHO Charter

As Member Nations of the EU, the UK signed up to the WHO charter of 1999. The Charter states that the impacts of transport development on health and the environment have not been fully recognised and that the well-being of communities is to be put 'first' when preparing and making decisions about transport and infrastructure policies. It stresses:

* The health impacts of transport development on health are to be put first when preparing and making decisions about transport and infrastructure policies. (See Charter on Transport, Environment and Health EUR/ICP/EHCO 02 02 05/9 Rev.4 09009 - 16 June 1999)
* There should be more co-ordination between policies on transport, environment and health
* There should be better public information about the adverse environmental and health impacts of transport
* Vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected, particularly children, the elderly, the disabled and the socially excluded
* The cumulative effect of air pollution and noise on public health should be considered
* Funding agencies should carry out environment and health impact assessments
* By 2004 at the latest Member States must define national quantitative or (if this is technically not feasible) qualitative health targets. This is of particular importance since it highlights the need for:

            Targets for residential areas, schools and hospitals
            Where noise should be reduced (including noise from airports and highways)
            Reduction in night time noise in residential areas - and this noise should be within WHO             recommended night time values
            Protecting existing quiet parkland and conservation areas.

It is clear that the provisions of the WHO Charter have been largely ignored in the SERAS proposals which led to the development of the Future of Air Transport White Paper.

For example, in November 2002 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) issued a high quality report on the Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight. This recommended that further runway development should be restricted. The report, although of the highest quality and resulting from meetings of the RCEP consisting of scientists of international repute, was treated in a dismissive way by the Secretary of State for Transport (Alistair Darling).

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The Effects of Noise on Children

The Department for Transport (DfT), BAA and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) steadfastedly refuse to acknowledge that the noise pressure levels advocated by our Government are discredited and inaccurate, being inconsistent with WHO recommendations. These recommendations provide noise contour levels suitable for schools (indoors and outdoors) and such environments as dwellings, hospitals, recreation areas, all of which are used by children. The level used (57 dBA Leq) is incompatible with the EU policy objective of substantially reducing the number of people regularly affected by long term average levels of noise. Recent studies have shown that at Heathrow 91% of schools exceed WHO guidelines. The current system employed by the Government hides the number of people facing unacceptable noise levels because it is calculated as an average.

The physical, social and intellectual development of children from conception to the end of adolescence requires an environment which is both protected and protective of their health. Prevention of exposure is the most effective means of protecting children.

Primary school children exposed to noise experience reduced cognitive performance. This has been demonstrated both in Europe and, more recently, as a result of the RANCH Study conducted in three countries and published in a peer reviewed Medical Journal - The Lancet. See also the accompanying article in The Lancet by Rabinowitz P.M. Is noise bad for your health? and read the observation's of SSE's Health Working Group Chairman. This study demonstrated impairment of reading comprehension and recognition memory among children exposed to chronic aircraft noise.

The term "jet pause" is well known to those teaching and learning in schools near to Heathrow resulting from continual interruptions in communication from low flying aircraft disturbing classroom activity every 60-90 seconds. The Munich Airport Noise Study in 1996 showed that long term memory and reading deficits in schoolchildren were reversed when Munich Airport moved, but emerged in children near the new international airport. Worryingly, stress responses such as an increase in systolic blood pressure and higher levels of resting adrenaline and noradrenaline were also recorded when compared with children not exposed to chronic aircraft noise. Although levels were raised, they were not clinically significant at that time.

Even the 2003 Air Transport White Paper recommended the funding of school trips away, especially when loss of outdoor amenities become severe.

Sleep disturbance may occur at all ages, although there is considerable variation even within families. Sleep disturbance results in fatigue and accidents from concentration failure, especially whilst carrying out complex tasks; children take examinations which may affect their future. Indeed, environmental pollutants, including noise, may have a permanent effect on a child's academic potential and well being.

It may also be difficult to recruit and retain teaching staff in schools adversely affected environmentally.

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Air Quality

Volatile organic compounds may irritate upper respiratory airways, particularly in persons, including children, with respiratory or cardio-respiratory disease. Although there is a marked increase in asthma among children, surprisingly there is only limited or inadequate evidence to support residing near airports as a cause of this among children.

Air quality modelling provided by the SERAS consultation document was not of a sufficient standard to be used to determine future air quality to any reasonable accuracy. It is highly probable, contrary to the statement in the document, that there will be similar problems at Stansted as there are at Heathrow if an extra runway was added.

If you've ever wondered what comes out of a jet engine, see What Comes Out of a Jet Engine - a list prepared by campaigners around Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

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Climate Change and Health in the UK

Although regularly in the news, both in scientific journals and the media, the health effects of climate change - although considerable - have been virtually ignored by national and local Health Authorities, including Essex's Strategic Health Authority. Children's health is not only the responsibility of DH but also DfT and DEFRA, none of which seem anxious to provide an integrated policy and consequently there is little central guidance locally.

This is despite the fact that the UK health impacts of climate change are considerable. They include extremes of temperature, flooding, UV exposure, vector borne diseases, water borne diseases, food poisoning, storms and air pollution. These are discussed in more detail below.

World temperature has increased by around 0.4 degrees Centigrade since the 1970s and it now exceeds the upper limit of natural "historical" variability. Scientists assess that most of the recent increase results from human activity. Further warming is forecast unless there is a marked reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Worldwide Health Effects of Global Warming

1. A marked increase in food poisoning and outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease which accelerate as summer temperatures increase. About 100,000 cases of food poisoning occur each year and it has been estimated that there will be a 10% increase each year. Outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease are also associated with heavy rainfall and contaminated water supplies. Water borne infections will include hepatitis A, E Coli, Giardia, Shigella (dysentry), cryptosporidium. Hopefully our sanitation should be adequate to prevent outbreaks of cholera in Britain.

2. Introduction and spread of vector borne infectious diseases. Malaria is the most important of these and most sensitive to long term climate change. High rainfall and high humidity are conducive to infection spread. Spread is unlikely to occur to any large extent in the UK in the immediate future, although infection is likely to occur more frequently in countries bordering on endemic areas. This could include parts of Southern Europe. It must be remembered that malaria was still endemic in certain parts of Europe until shortly after the Second World War. Nevertheless, the DH report stated that local outbreaks might occur in the UK, particularly among those living in low lying salt marsh districts. They should avoid mosquito bites. Climate change is responsible for the increase in another vector borne infection, tick born encephalitis, in Sweden and the introduction and spread of West Nile infection caused a considerable number of cases of encephalitis has occurred recently in the USA. Dengue is the most widespread vector borne infection world wide. So far temperate climates have been spared. However, it is essential that resources are provided for the surveillance of vector borne infections in temperate climates and this is already in progress for West Nile infection.

3. Extremes of climate change may result in increased mortality, particularly among persons with pre-existing disease, especially cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Recent examples are the 1995 heat wave in Chicago, causing 514 heat related deaths and 3300 excess emergency admissions. More recently, the heat wave in Europe in 2003 resulted in very high mortality rates among the elderly in France.

4. Severe winter gales may cause injury or death by injuries from being blown over, flying debris, and occasionally collapsing buildings. Loss of electricity supplies compound the problem. Improved inspection of buildings, particularly hospitals, are required. Coastal and riverine flooding is also a threat and may result from rising sea levels during storm surges. There is often an increase in epidemics of infectious disease following floods and storms.

5. Air Pollution has decreased steadily following the advent of the Clean Air Act in the 1950s. However, those residing near major industrial complexes, including airports, may experience increased morbidity and mortality, particularly from cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

6. Increased exposure to ultraviolet light due to ozone depletion may induce skin cancers and also effects on the eye, including cataracts.

7. Agriculture may be affected since climatic influence could affect food production as a result of influences on plant pests and diseases. Thus, the risks to health are complex and at this stage difficult to quantify. A combined strategy by the Government involving the Departments of Health, DEFRA and, of course, The Treasury, are of importance if there are to be strategies to reduce disease burdens, injuries and deaths from climate change.

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What the Government Says About The Health Effects of Climate Change

The Department of Health published a report in 2001 examining the effects of climate change in the UK. The report contains the following points:

* Cold related deaths are likely to decline substantially, by perhaps 20,000 cases pa
* Heat related deaths are likely to increase, by about 2000 cases pa
* Cases of food poisoning are likely to increase significantly, by perhaps 10,000 cases pa
* Vector-borne diseases may present local problems but the increase in their overall impact is likely to be small
* Water borne diseases may increase but, again, the overall impact is likely to be small
* The risk of major disasters caused by severe winter gales and coastal flooding is likely to increase significantly
* In general, the effects of air pollutants on health are likely to decline but the effects of ozone during the summer are likely to increase; several thousand extra deaths and a similar number of hospital admissions may occur each year
* Cases of skin cancer are likely to increase by perhaps 5000 cases per year and cataracts by 2000 cases per year
* Measures taken to reduce the rate of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions could produce secondary beneficial effects on health.

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Social Capital

The development of Stansted Airport in conjunction with changes resulting from the M11 corridor will result in marked changes in the population structure which could affect the wellbeing of those coming in and those already there. This will include families, many of which will have children. "New town blues" affecting whole families was a feature of the development of Harlow.

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