It has been suggested that exposures to high-noise levels near major airports may cause increased incidence of birth defects in the offspring of parents residing near these airports. Using data gathered in Metropolitan Atlanta during 1970 to 1972, we compared the rates of seventeen categories of defects in high- and low-noise census tracts. No significant differences were observed. However, when we subdivided the category of central nervous system defects into several subcategories of specific defects, we noted a significantly increased incidence of spina bifida without hydrocephalus in the high-noise areas. Because the small number of cases associated with this finding we did a matched case-control study using all cases of central nervous system defects born during the years 1968 to 1976. No significantly increased risk for residents in the high-noise areas was noted in this study. It is our opinion that noise or other factors associated with residence near airports are unlikely to be important environmental teratogens.