Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


A Killer Called Noise

Aug 24 2007 (TODAY)

Din of modern life blamed for thousands of heart deaths

LONDON - Thousands of people around the world are dying prematurely from
heart disease triggered by long-term exposure to excessive noise,
according to research by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Coronary heart disease caused 101,000 deaths in the United Kingdom last
year and the study suggests that 3,030 of these were caused by noise
exposure, including daytime traffic.

Mr Deepak Prasher, professor of audiology at University College London,
told the New Scientist magazine: "The data provides the link showing there
are earlier deaths because of noise … and people haven't been aware that
it has an impact on their health."

The WHO working group on the Noise Environmental Burden on Disease began
work on the health effects of noise in Europe in 2003.

In addition to the heart dis- ease link, it found that 2 per cent of
Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep because of noise pollution and
15 per cent can suffer severe annoyance. Chronic exposure to loud traffic
noise causes 3 per cent of tinnitus cases, in which people constantly hear
a ringing noise in their ears.

Recent published research has shown that noise can increase the levels of
stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin in the
body, even during sleep.

The longer these hormones stay in the bloodstream, the more likely they
are to cause life-threatening problems. High stress levels can lead to
heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and immune problems.

The WHO came to its figures by comparing households with abnormally high
exposure to noise with those in quieter homes.

According to the WHO guidelines, the noise threshold for cardiovascular
problems is chronic nighttime exposure of 50 decibels (dB) or above - the
noise of light traffic. For sleep disturbance, the threshold is 42dB, for
general annoyance it is 35dB, the sound of a whisper.

Ms Mary Stevens, policy officer at the National Society for Clean Air said
that there were many options for reducing noise. Traffic could be
quietened if more cars used low-noise tyres and councils installed
low-noise road surfaces, for example. And coordinating roadworks by
utility companies would also prevent the proliferation of potholes,
another source of noisy traffic. - The Guardian

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