Aug 9, 2023 - Health

Noise pollution putting Chicagoans' health at risk

Photo of a plane landing over houses near an airport.

An airplane flies over homes in the Archer Heights neighborhood in 2021. Photo: Sebastian Hidalgo/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Chicago has had some of the worst air quality, severe heat islands and leftover lead pipes in the country. Add noise pollution to the mix.

Why it matters: Noise pollution is proven to take years off your life.

Driving the news: A recent New York Times investigation shows chronic noise — as suffered by residents near flight paths — can shorten life spans.

  • Chicago ranks third-noisiest among large U.S. cities, per a study from commercial real estate listings platform 42Floors.

Methodology: The study factors in airport takeoffs and landings, construction activity, population density and car use to define the noisiest cities.

By the numbers: According to TomTom, Chicago residents spend 82 extra hours each year in congestion, second only to New York City.

  • Chicago has two city airports, which is why we have over a million airplane takeoffs and landings a year, more than most cities.

What they're saying: "As the most densely populated city outside of New York, life in the Windy City can get rather hectic with the 11,841 people per square mile," authors of the 42Floors study conclude.

The big picture: According to the Times, chronic noise is a largely unrecognized health threat affecting more than 100 million Americans. Studies have shown a correlation between louder decibel levels and cardiovascular disease.

  • The louder levels you live with, the higher your chances are for disease.
  • Higher noise levels also can cause stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure and sleep disruption.

Of note: Chicago has a sound insulation program for those who live close to airports. To this date, Milhouse engineering and the city's Department of Aviation have insulated over 20,000 homes near O'Hare and Midway.

💭 Justin's thought bubble: All these factors affect most Chicagoans. It's great the city is sound-proofing homes near the airport, but what about noise issues in other sections?


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