by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Police authorities at all levels use aircraft–airplanes and helicopters–to provide surveillance. Flights have been increased during the demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. This letter in the Baltimore Sun complains about the noise of surveillance airplanes.
In Los Angeles, the police use helicopters. Helicopter noise is more disturbing for most listeners due to a low frequency component that travels through walls, and a rotatory component to the sound pattern based on the usual clockwise rotation of the rotor.
Whatever the form of aircraft, the sound can disrupt sleep, increase blood pressure, disturb concentration, and interfere with learning. In Figure 3 in a review article by Basner et al., aircraft noise caused an increase in heart attacks beginning at 40-45 A-weighted decibels.*
The letter writer called for the surveillance flights to end. While I don’t know if this is feasible right now, I hope the flights stop soon.
*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements to reflect the frequencies heard in human speech.
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.