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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/Airport Noise

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new study that shows children living near airports may have impaired reading and memory ability.


Coming up, the latest round of climate change talks aims to give developing countries a larger role. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: The reading and memory ability of children living under airport flight paths may be impaired because of noise exposure. That's the finding of a unique study done by a team of international researchers.

Past studies have suggested that long-term noise exposure interferes with a child's ability to learn. But these studies, for the most part, compared children living near airports with those that didn't.

This new research took advantage of the relocation of the airport near Munich, Germany. The situation offered scientists a rare opportunity to test how changes in noise level affected the same children.

All the children, ranging in age from eight to 12, were tested a few months before the airport switch, then one or two years after the move. Researchers found that children near the old airport had impaired reading and long-term memory ability when compared to a control group of kids that lived in the same region. But after the airport closed, these abilities improved. After the new airport opened, children in that neighborhood showed deterioration in their reading and memory skills.

Based on these results, the lead researcher on the study advises parents to choose schools located in quiet neighborhoods. He even suggested that schools should be rated for their noise levels. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.


CURWOOD: And you're living to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Stan Getz, “Serenade in Blue” QUIET NOW/BODY AND SOUL (Verve, 2000)]



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