F-35s are exposing children's brains to "neurotoxic levels of noise"

UVM Chief of Pediatric Neurology describes the severe harm to children from the hundreds of F-35 training flights each month low over Vermont cities full of children

Peter Bingham, MD, is a pediatric neurologist and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at The University of Vermont Medical Center and a Professor of Neurology at the Larner College of Medicine.

Dr. Bingham’s letter was published in Seven Days on July 28, 2021 in response to the Seven Days cover story, Sound Effects: In the F-35’s Flight Path, Vermonters’ Lives Have Changed, July 7, 2021. It is reprinted here by permission of both publisher Paula Routly and Dr. Bingham.

Doctor's Orders

I appreciate our Gov. Phil Scott and Mayor Miro Weinberger weighing the costs and benefits of the F-35 program, but I wonder if they have a complete sense of the costs for children. Both epidemiological as well as animal-model studies show that noise impacts children's mental health, contributes to attention deficit and impairs cognitive skills. Hundreds of children in our communities are likely experiencing hearing loss — the so-called "temporary threshold shift" — for hours, days or weeks beyond those few seconds when the F-35s are exposing their brains to neurotoxic levels of noise. Neuroscientists continue to grapple with the possibility that deafness, including that due to the cumulative effects of noise exposure, increases the risk of dementia.

One reason our medical center can recruit qualified specialists — why people are drawn to our state — is that Vermont stands for natural beauty. As a pediatric neurologist, I could not, in good conscience, recommend a family to move anywhere close to this training project. In the words of Sandra Day O'Connor, "We pay a price when we deprive children of the exposure to the values, principles, and education they need to make them good citizens." We ought to defend our most vulnerable citizens better than this.

Peter Bingham

Burlington

Bingham is the head of pediatric neurology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and a professor at the UVM Larner College of Medicine