Photo credit: Maria Tyutina

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The statement “knowledge is power” is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, but regardless of who first had this idea, I think it is true. As a physician, I have always adhered to the principles of the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics. Principle VII states, “a physician shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.” If I have knowledge that others may not have, I feel duty-bound to share it to try to help both individuals and communities.

In 2007, when called upon to help protect my neighborhood, I reluctantly served at the lowest level of electoral politics in the City of Los Angeles, on the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council board. I resigned from that position when I moved to a different city. Voluntarily, I served on the board of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, Inc. for nine years until I was termed out. A few months after that, after reading an article about hyperacusis in the New York Times, I decided to see what I could do to make the world a quieter place. My subsequent noise odyssey is described in this guest editorial in Hearing Health Magazine.

My noise interests are in prevention of noise-induced auditory disorders, specifically trying to answer the question, “what is a safe noise level for the public?” But when I became aware of the non-auditory health effects of noise — something most doctors don’t know about — I knew I had to share my knowledge. That includes what I learned about the dangers of aviation noise, which can cause cardiovascular disease and death in those exposed to it.

Aviation noise is a major problem for those living near airports or under flight paths. When I became aware that the Federal Aviation Administration allows Americans to be exposed to noise levels deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency, I submitted an abstract and then presented a paper about this at the 183rd meeting of the Acoustical Society of America last December. A few weeks ago, I submitted comments to the FAA about proposed changes in its Civil Aviation Noise Policy.  I just learned that excerpts from my comments were quoted in comments submitted by people in Washington County, Oregon. Among my quoted comments was:

“The FAA is clearly endangering the health of Americans exposed to unsafe levels of aviation noise. The FAA must recognize and acknowledge that it is knowingly endangering the health of Americans exposed to aviation noise and must take action to protect the health of the American public. The FAA’s stated mission, ‘to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world,’ must be extended to those living near airports or under aircraft flight paths, to provide them safety from dangerous aviation noise exposure.”

Now the FAA is warned — as were authorities in Libya prior to a recent dam break in Derna — about a major threat to public health and safety.  They can choose to ignore the warnings, but should know (as the Catholic church recently found out, about Pope Pius X likely knowing about the Holocaust but not doing anything about it) that nothing stays secret forever.

Knowledge is power.

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