F-35 Harms Children
I teared up while reading "Sound Effects" [July 7]. Learning of children's fears of F-35 noise and parents trying to save them from this trauma was heart-wrenching. Even more devastating was the fact that the two men with all the power — U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders — knew about the danger to children from the noise of the F-35. In its 2012 Environmental Impact Statement, the U.S. Air Force reported on scientific studies detailing harms done to children who live close to military jet noise.
Leading researchers in the health effects of noise on human beings reported that there is physical and psychological harm done to the body by the kind and level of noise thousands of Vermonters are now experiencing from the F-35. Children and infants suffer far worse impacts to their physical body, their emotional health and their ability to learn.
Who cares? Certainly not Leahy and Sanders. They have the power to direct the Air Force to replace the F-35 with another mission (flying or otherwise) that is compatible with residential neighborhoods. Other senators have replaced fighters with quieter military aircraft in their states. Vermont could do the same.
Sens. Leahy and Sanders actively support having the F-35, a weapon of mass destruction, in Vermont, knowing full well of the harm it will do to Vermonters. They are willing to sacrifice the 1,500 children and 6,000 adults who are trapped in the dangerous noise zone of the F-35.
Add that to the sound effects.
You Get Used to It
[Re "Sound Effects," July 7]: I lived in Washington, D.C., for 14 years, seven of them directly under the approaching path of flights landing at DCA national airport. I am so sorry the jets are noisy and bother residents. You get used to the noise. Trust me. If more terrorists hijack our airplanes, you will be happy to have the jets around. Trust me on that, too. Methinks Vermonters are just a little spoiled. We are so lucky to live in one of the best states in the Union; let's show how classy we are by supporting our armed forces.
The Sound Of...?
[Re "Sound Effects," July 7]: A common assertion among F-35 proponents is that noise from military aircraft is perceived as "the sound of freedom." This seems odd.
Freedom is complex. But for simplicity, let's examine a most American summary — that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "four freedoms" — a proposal for four fundamental freedoms everyone should enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
What do our military aircraft, noise aside, have to do with providing them?
Do these planes provide freedom of speech? No, the First Amendment gives us that.
Freedom of worship? Again, no. Again, the Constitution.
Freedom from want? Here, certainly not, and rather the opposite, as the enormous sums to develop, build and support them drain the treasury for domestic needs.
Ah, fear. Surely they make us less afraid of "the enemy" — whoever that might be. But what enemy has the air or missile capability to attack us? None on the horizon. And our overseas attacks to preempt any capability seem to be creating more, not fewer, enemies — enemies whose tools are not targets for such aircraft. Our fear, if anything, should be increased.
To me, freedom comes not from our warplanes, but from collaboration with nature and humans trying to be healed.
"Sound of freedom"? Tell it to the good people of Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela — anywhere but here. They would not hear the roar of our planes in the air as the sound of freedom.
Waste of Resources
There are dozens of comments that could be made related to ["Sound Effects," July 7], but let me concentrate on four:
Why Vermont? The only reason the F-35 headed to Vermont was the interference of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy into the site selection process. His ego influenced his decision making, not his concern for the health of those who live in the flight path.
Jobs! The main reason expressed by politicians has been the jobs supposedly created. Yet only about 75 percent of the 1,050 jobs at the Vermont Air National Guard are held by Vermonters. Thus, at least 262 of the people working for VTANG do not live in Vermont. How many of these out-of-staters are pilots who fly the F-35s? The U.S. Air Force in its Environmental Impact Statement claimed that only a handful of jobs might be created by the F-35.
Cost. The cost of flying the F-35 is about $36,000 per hour. Multiplying that by 52 weeks equals $179,712,000. How many scholarships could be offered to Vermont college students for $180 million?
Noise mitigation. The biggest political folly promoted by our politicians is noise mitigation. It is estimated to cost up to $50,000 per residence. There are at least 2,600 residences that need "mitigation." BTV expects to "mitigate" 50 a year. Consequently, it will take 52 years to complete the task, for about $130,000,000. How many New Americans could the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program assist with $130 million?
Our political leaders put war training ahead of college scholarships and social good!
Thank you for the excellent article about the impact of the F-35s ["Sound Effects," July 7]. One point I'd like to add: the specific impact on children. The National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine cited a study done when the Munich Airport was relocated. The abstract reads: "After the switch, long-term memory and reading were impaired in the noise group at the new airport and improved in the formerly noise-exposed group at the old airport. Short-term memory also improved in the latter group after the old airport was closed. At the new airport, speech perception was impaired in the newly noise-exposed group."
Do we really want to inflict this on the next generation? And while these children were exposed more consistently, the noise levels of commercial planes don't approach what we are dealing with in Burlington. As someone who lives two miles from the airport, my life has irretrievably changed, particularly in the summer. I used to love working outside in my garden or having friends over for lunch and eating on the patio. I used to do computer work outside whenever I could.
Most days, these activities have all become next to impossible because of the roaring of the F-35. It shakes everything, including my body. The noise is horrific, but the impact of the subsonic vibrations is often even worse. And it goes on so much longer than it once did.
Will it take a crash for our public officials to come to their senses?
[Re "Sound Effects," July 7]: 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.
Bingham is the head of pediatric neurology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and a professor at the UVM Larner College of Medicine.