Belgian Health Board: The airport is closed at night between 11pm and 7am

Now that the court has instructed outgoing Minister Mark Harpers to work to reduce the inconvenience caused by air traffic, the Belgian Supreme Health Council has concluded in an alarming report that Zaventem Airport must be closed at night. Where is our health council and the Ministry of Health?

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He. She Report from Belgium There’s nothing wrong with that: a complete night-time lockdown between 11pm and 7am is necessary to protect the health of local residents. It is explicitly stated that closing until 6am is insufficient.

“The Council stresses the importance of this hour. Since sleep is less deep in the early morning, flights at that time have a significant impact on the perception of sleep quality, as sleepers wake up more easily, but also on objective sleep parameters.”

The Belgians consider the current standard La night Completely insufficient to explain the inconvenience. This measure indicates the annual average level of aircraft noise during the night, but is subject to the number of flight movements that occur at night.

The number of trips is very important
“Next to L.”a night It should be noted that frequency of exposure has a dominant effect on objectively measured sleep quality. To correctly characterize the exposure frequency, more qualified indicators of individual noise events (LAmax“They are being used,” the report said.

Researchers directly link health problems caused by air traffic to increased pressure on health care in the region. “In terms of healthcare, the reduction in pollution and noise around Brussels Airport is expected to reduce the burden on morbidity and mortality rates, but certainly also on general practitioners and hospitals.”

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The Supreme Council of Health believes that it is advisable to draw a map of the impact of air traffic on the health care budget.

Billions in social costs
In France, the social costs of aircraft noise are estimated at 6.1 billion euros. In Belgium, the health costs for 110,000 people who suffer from sleep disorders due to air traffic amount to one billion euros, in addition to another 578 million euros due to severe inconvenience.

“Given the substantial evidence of negative (serious) health effects mainly related to sleep disturbance, the Supreme Council of Health considers that a complete ban on night flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. is best to ensure the health of more than 160,000 citizens within the 45 dB range.” (La night) to protect.”

This measure should ensure that local residents can sleep for at least seven hours, but preferably eight, without the disturbance of air traffic. “In addition, special attention should be paid to avoiding a high concentration of flights during the early morning and late evening hours.”

No more unacceptable noise peaks
The Council also recommends that flight paths be designed in such a way that no local resident has to deal with noise peaks in excess of 60 decibels (L).Amax), especially at night. “Not only should no one be exposed to unacceptable noise levels, but we must also ensure that the number of people experiencing serious disturbance is kept as low as possible.”

The Belgian Council is quite clear about the growth of the airport near Brussels: “Expansion of the airport with the aim of increasing the number of flights is unacceptable given the current high burden on local residents in terms of air pollution and noise exposure.” “.

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The report covers Brussels Airport, an airport that accounts for almost half of Schiphol’s flights. Furthermore, the number of people living within the noise perimeter in Zaventem is much lower than the number of people living in Schiphol. It follows that the nuisance and pollution caused by Schiphol are more serious and affect a larger number of people than in Belgium.

The Dutch authorities are silent
However, the Dutch Health Board remains silent when it comes to the negative impacts of Schiphol Airport. The Ministry of Health (VWS) also deliberately avoids discussion. While Belgian researchers frequently cite research results from the Dutch RIVM.

In The Hague, everything is left to the Ministry of Infrastructure (I&W), populated, as it is known, by aviation enthusiasts who – according to several published documents – are mainly interested in facilitating Schiphol Airport optimally. Citizens who express concerns to VWS will receive an answer from I&W. The rules relating to the health aspects of air traffic fall within the Aviation Law and not within general environmental and health legislation.

A good example of an outdated view: As Schiphol Airport calculates using the lower dotted line, science has already shown that there is up to four times as much disturbance at a given average noise level (Source: Supreme Council of Health)

The Belgians’ conclusions are downright troubling and should be included as the latest scientific thinking in the process that I&W is now pursuing by order of the judge. After all, it ruled that protection of local populations should be based on the current state of the science within a year, not on outdated visions as is currently the case.

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Megan Vasquez

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