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October 29, 2002

Noise Pollution Harms Learning Development

A recent decision in a major noise pollution case could have educational ramifications. Nearly 5,000 people living near Atsugi air base were awarded 2.7 billion yen in damages as compensation for various forms of physical suffering. New Scientist magazine reports that, according to a recent study carried out in Germany, one result of such noise pollution is increased levels of stress hormones in children. Together with the noise itself, this can interfere with their speech perception, reading ability and long-term memory. There have been similar studies but this research, which focused on one group of children living next to a newly opened airport and others next to one which was closed down, is the first to show that the drop in memory and reading skills is reversible. One result of the Atsugi case has been a reduction in the tolerable noise level in Japan.

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