The Effects Of Noise Pollution On Our Health

Published: 2009-09-13, Last Modified:

Few of us who read the news on a regular basis remain unaware of the effects that air pollution can have on our health. In general, the media has done a good job in reporting this information. Our governments have also lead efforts for a number of years to get smoke stacks cleaned and to enforce vehicle testing to ensure that the higher levels of harmful gases and particles that result from burning fuel inefficiently are recognized and corrected.

In contrast, a form of pollution for which we have heard far less is noise pollution. In the past, less publicity and government action on this topic was to be expected given the smaller number of people that it affected and the less-than-complete knowledge that we have had up until recently. However, now that research is starting to understand the significance that noise pollution can have on our health, it is important that we push our governments to enact appropriate regulation to minimize the health effects.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Noise Pollution?

By far the most frequent source of noise pollution that many of us will face is noise from traffic. With roughly 90% of those in Britain and Australia and roughly 80% of those in Canada and the US living in cities, the majority of the population is constantly experiencing some level of background noise from automobiles. While some areas of the suburbs are often very quiet and staying inside in a well insulated house can reduce exposure, many people living in the busier areas of cities have few options in reducing the personal exposure to noise pollution. As well, many of the low frequency sounds from traffic can travel though most building materials to reach our bodies.

What Are The Health Effects Of Noise Pollution On Our Health?

According to research published in the Environmental Health Journal by researchers at Lund University Hospital, high levels of noise can have a number of effects on the bodies of even people who are relatively young or middle aged. Some of these effects include hypertension or high blood pressure as well as changes in heart rate and levels of stress hormones in the blood. Based on this research, noise at levels above 60 decibels can cause these effects. When you consider that 60 decibels is the level of normal conversation or of a dishwasher running, it is not what most of call loud noise that is having these effects.

Noise Pollution Increases High Blood Pressure Risk

Specifically from the research, the scientists found that noise levels above 60 decibels increased the risk of high blood pressure by 25% while levels above 64 decibels increased the risk by 90%. Both of these noise levels are within the range of normal conversation and a running dishwasher mentioned previously. The researchers do not yet know, but theorize that the noise causes increased stress levels and interruptions in sleep that lead to the high blood pressure.

This finding is important because high blood pressure can result in heart attack, stroke, eye damage, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure.

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Category: General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research

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