Noise & Health 2004; 6(23): 3-20
Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is a whole-body, systemic pathology, characterized by the abnormal proliferation of extra-cellular matrices, and caused by excessive exposure to low frequency noise (LFN). VAD has been observed in LFN-exposed professionals, such as aircraft technicians, commercial and military pilots and cabin crewmembers, ship machinists, restaurant workers, and disk-jockeys. VAD has also been observed in several populations exposed to environmental LFN. This report summarizes what is known to date on VAD, LFN-induced pathology, and related issues.
In 1987, the first autopsy of a deceased VAD patient was performed. The extent of LFN-induced damage was overwhelming, and the information obtained is, still today, guiding many of the associated and ongoing research projects. In 1992, LFN-exposed animal models began to be studied to gain a deeper knowledge of how tissues respond to this acoustic stressor.
In both human and animal models, LFN exposure causes thickening of cardiovascular structures. Indeed, pericardial thickening with no inflammatory process, and in the absence of diastolic dysfunction, is the hallmark of VAD. Depressions, increased irritability and aggressiveness, a tendency for isolation, and decreased cognitive skills are all part of the clinical picture of VAD. LFN is a demonstrated genotoxic agent, inducing an increased frequency of sister chromatid exchanges in both human and animal models. The occurrence of malignancies among LFN-exposed humans, and of metaplastic and dysplastic appearances in LFN-exposed animals, clearly corroborates the mutagenic outcome of LFN exposure.
The inadequacy of currently established legislation regarding noise assessments is a powerful hindrance to scientific advancement. VAD can never be fully recognized as an occupational and environmental pathology unless the agent of disease – LFN – is acknowledged and properly evaluated. The worldwide suffering of LFN-exposed individuals is staggering and it is unethical to maintain this status quo.
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