According to the results of a new peer-reviewed study made available to us by the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, the connection between noise and coronary heart disease – particularly at night – is serious.
Wind energy ordinances must include a top limit for how much turbine noise can safely be added to our environment.
More than 15 million Americans currently have some form of coronary heart disease (CHD), which involves a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Risk factors for CHD include diabetes, high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, obesity, smoking, menopause, and inactivity.
To this list we can now add noise, thanks to a recent study and assessment of the evidence by the WHO Noise Environmental Burden on Disease working group.
“The new data indicate that noise pollution is causing more deaths from heart disease than was previously thought,” says working group member Deepak Prasher, a professor of audiology.
The working group compared households with abnormally high noise exposure with those with quieter homes. They also reviewed epidemiologic data on heart disease and hypertension, and then integrated these data.
“Many people become habituated to noise over time,” says Prasher. “The biological effects are imperceptible, so that even as you become accustomed to the noise, adverse physiological changes are nevertheless taking place, with potentially serious consequences to human health.”
Chronic high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and immune problems. According to research, arousal associated with nighttime noise exposure increased blood and saliva concentrations of these hormones even during sleep.
“Taken together, recent epidemiologic data show us that noise is a major stressor that can influence health through the endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems,” says Prasher.
The broader implications of chronic noise exposure also need to be considered.
“Noise pollution contributes not only to cardiovascular disease, but also to hearing loss, sleep disruption, social handicaps, diminished productivity, impaired teaching and learning, absenteeism, increased drug use, and accidents,” says physician Louis Hagler, who coauthored a review on noise pollution in the March 2007 Southern Medical Journal.
Hagler added, “The public health repercussions of increasing noise pollution for future generations could be immense.”
[Editor’s note: Most of this letter (after the mention of the need for noise limits for wind turbines) is reproduced from an article by Mark Nathaniel Mead in Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The letter writer falsely signed it with Mead’s name.]
2 February 2008
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