Evidence on health impacts of transport noise increasing

tyresProfessor Stephen Stansfeld of Queen Mary University London has worked on numerous of studies looking at the impacts of transport noise on health. He gives an overview of the current evidence from, and activity in, this field of work.

In the past the research topic of environmental noise and health has been something of a Cinderella subject, but recently there have been an increasing number of large studies of community populations examining the effects of noise on high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke.  These studies find that there are effects of environmental noise on these outcomes. The associations tend to be quite small in comparison to conventional risk factors like smoking, but because they affect large numbers of people, and exposure is on the whole outside the control of the subject, this still represents an important public health problem.

Recent studies of aircraft noise exposure have been finding that high levels of exposure are not only related to hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease but also to mortality. These results in the context of the previous accumulating evidence suggest that environmental noise needs to be taken seriously as a public health problem.

The World Health Organisation has contributed significantly to disseminating information on noise and health, particularly the report on the burden of disease due to noise – which shows 1 million healthy life years are lost in Europe annually due to transport noise and the Night Noise Guidelines for Europe which recommend noise levels required to ensure undisturbed, healthy sleep.

Noise and public health is recognised as a global problem – and research into noise and health will be discussed at the 11th International Conference on Noise as a Public Health Problem (ICBEN2014) to be held in Nara, Japan between June 2nd and 5th this year.

Prof Stephen Stansfeld

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