Experts testify that Futenma aircraft noise is harmful to neighbors' health
June 23, 2007
OKINAWA CITY — Two environmental health experts from Kyoto University testified Thursday that aircraft noise from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is detrimental to the health of residents in neighboring communities.
Kozo Hiramatsu, a professor of acoustic environmental studies, told a three-judge panel in Naha District Court that the low-frequency noise generated by helicopter operations is harmful.
“Although low-frequency noise cannot be accurately registered by a conventional noise-measuring device,” Hiramatsu said, “it is certain that it causes various damages to human bodies.”
In 2002, about 400 Ginowan residents filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government and the then-base commander, Col. Richard Lueking, charging that aircraft noise threatens their physical and mental health. Besides $2.56 million in compensation, they also are seeking a halt to all flight operations at the air station from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The portion of the lawsuit against Lueking, now retired, was dismissed in September 2004 by the Naha District Court.
Hiramatsu told the judges Thursday that very little can be done to prevent the effects of low-frequency noise, even though the Japanese government spends about $3 million every year to soundproof windows and doors for homes in communities surrounding the air station.
Such devices would not help prevent the noise’s effects, he said.
“Low-frequency noise has very long wavelength, which makes it hard to be absorbed,” he said.
The second expert, Toshihiko Matsui, an associate professor of environmental health, told the judges that aircraft noise is especially hard on young children and senior citizens.
Citing a report released by the World Health Organization, he also said residents who are constantly exposed to noise have a higher risk of heart disease.
The next hearing is set for June 28.