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Expert says noise can be unhealthy
By PAUL MUSCHICK, Staff Writer
News & Record
GREENSBORO -- A noise specialist told people worried about the proposed Federal Express cargo hub on Thursday that she considers noise a health hazard because it causes stress.
Arline Bronzaft, a member of the New York City Council on the Environment and a former college professor, has studied how airport noise affects people.
Her visit comes at a time when some county residents are battling economic developers over what would happen if FedEx built at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Some residents say the shipper's overnight flights would ruin their lives by keeping them awake. Politicians and business recruiters say the cargo hub would add much-needed jobs.
Bronzaft spoke at the invitation of the Piedmont Quality of Life Coalition, a group of residents opposing FedEx.
She said a survey of people living near the airport in Newark, N.J., showed 70 percent of them were bothered by noise. The study, which asked general health questions, showed the people near the airport felt less healthy than those living farther away.
"I consider it a health hazard," Bronzaft told about 100 people at New Garden Friends Meeting. "If you're awakened in the middle of the night by an airplane and you can't get back to sleep, that's stress."
At Thursday's meeting, Bronzaft did not dwell on FedEx. She spoke generally about noise, whether it's a dripping faucet, a truck, a train or a plane.
The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority is expected to decide later this year whether to invite FedEx.
If approved, the $300 million hub could open in five years and employ 1,500 people, about two-thirds of them part-time at $10 an hour. State and local leaders have offered the company $80 million in tax breaks to build here.
Politicians and business recruiters say the hub will entice manufacturers to build nearby for quick access to the shipper. They say the noise will not impact many people.
Opponents argue the economic impact would be minimal because the region's economy already is booming, while the noise would have a great negative impact.
Bronzaft was appointed by New York's mayor to chair the city's noise committee of the Council on the Environment. She said research indicates noise can cause increased blood pressure, indigestion and breathing problems. But the tests are not conclusive, she said.
There should not have to be indisputable evidence that noise makes people sick before governments take it more seriously, Bronzaft said. If people cannot open their windows or read to their children or barbecue in their backyard because it is too loud, then they are affected, she said.
"You may not be dead, but you sure are not living," Bronzaft said.
She said the federal government was studying noise in the 1970s, through its Office of Noise Abatement and Control. President Reagan closed that office in 1982.
There is legislation pending to reopen the office. Bronzaft said more research is needed.
"People don't seem to worry about the fact that people might be affected by noise," she said.