Air Force Case Flawed, Data Withheld
Working from a Power Point presentation, the colonel also argued that aircraft noise has been "proven as compatible with residential use," even though the Air Force impact statement estimates more than 1,000 homes will be rendered "incompatible with residential use" by the proposed F-35 base. Additionally, about 100 homes have already been destroyed as part of a Federal Aviation Administration program designed to clear inhabitants from excessive noise zones.
The board of health chair, Dr. Austin Sumner, is a practicing physician and the Vermont state epidemiologist. At the hearing he expressed concern that his board's limited and advisory authority applies only to Burlington and not the two communities next to the airport:
"There are three separate communities that will be"potentially adversely affected by this plane. That's Winooski, Burlington and South Burlington".
There is only one department or agency that really has multi-jurisdictional authority and that is the Vermont Department of Health and I have not to date heard their position on this matter. They should be the lead organization investigating the public health effects related to what could affect 7000-9000 members of those three communities."
The state health commissioner, Dr. Harry Chen, has been unresponsive to public requests to assess the potential health impact of the F-35. An open letter to Dr. Chen in September, written at the behest of Dr. Sumner, has gone unanswered.
Dr. Chen has also ignored media inquiries wondering why the Vermont Health Dept. is ignoring a Vermont health issue at the moment when prevention would do the most good.
No representative of the Vermont Department of Health attended the F-35 hearing, so it remains unclear why a request on behalf of the state epidemiologist continues to be ignored by the state health commissioner, even though the state's website recognizes at least some of the damaging health effects of noise.
Air Force Tries to Get By With Decades-Old Study
In his testimony to the board, Les Blomberg, who is the executive director of the state's Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier [website last updated January 2000], told the board that the Ai Force had failed to respond to his requests for clarifying information. Such bureaucratic silence, Blomberg suggested, "only happens when they have something to hide."
In a follow-up letter to the health board November 30, Blomberg identified other inaccuracies in Col. Ahmann's presentation of the Air Force position, in particular the government's false claim that "there is no scientific basis for a claim that potential health effects exist for aircraft time average sound levels below 75 dB [decibels]." Pointing out the intellectual dishonesty of the claim, Blomberg wrote:
"You should note that the conclusion is based on 20+ year old paper based on research that was probably more than 25 years old. In the last 25 years, while the human body's response to noise has not changed, our understanding of it has changed greatly.
In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe published a 126-page study titles "Burden of disease from environmental noise," which was certainly as available to the Air Force for its environmental impact statement as research that was decades out of date. The Foreword of the study offers a clear context in which the F-35 should be assessed for its health impact:
"Public health experts agree that environmental risks constitute 24% of the burden of disease. Widespread exposure to environmental noise from road, rail, airports and industrial sites contributes to this burden. One in three individuals is annoyed during the daytime and one in five has disturbed sleep at night because of traffic noise.
"Epidemiological evidence indicates that those chronically exposed to high levels of environmental noise have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction. Thus, noise pollution is considered not only an environmental nuisance but also a threat to public health."