Sources: Environmental and Health Issues

Ambient noise is the new secondhand smoke (Fetterman, 2018). Like unwanted tobacco smoke, noise doesn’t just bother people but also adversely affects human health and function..

Our findings indicate that a chronic environmental stressor-aircraft noise-could impair cognitive development in children, specifically reading comprehension. Schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise are not healthy educational environments.

Unwanted and disturbing sound increases the risk for a variety of negative health outcomes such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, hearing loss, and sleep disturbance. While current federal and local policy is fragmented, the infrastructure for greater collaboration is available and ready to be utilized to improve public health outcomes. The American Public Health Association should archive the policy statement on noise from 1975 and advocate for the implementation of a federal noise control plan through the United States National Prevention Strategy. Federal leadership in noise monitoring, research, and education will help local governments abate the negative health outcomes associated with environmental noise pollution.

“Noise doesn’t just affect hearing, noise activists say. A study by the University of Michigan showed an association with cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, according to Neitzel, who conducted the study. “The consensus is that if we can keep noise below 70 decibels on average, that would eliminate hearing loss,” Neitzel said. “’But the problem is that if noise is more than 50 decibels, there’s an increased risk of heart attack and hypertension,” he said. “Noise at 70 decibels is not safe.’”

“Scientists have known for decades that noise—even at the seemingly innocuous volume of car traffic—is bad for us. “Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience,” former U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart said in 1978. In the years since, numerous studies have only underscored his assertion that noise “must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.” Say you’re trying to fall asleep. You may think you’ve tuned out the grumble of trucks downshifting outside, but your body has not: Your adrenal glands are pumping stress hormones, your blood pressure and heart rate are rising, your digestion is slowing down. Your brain continues to process sounds while you snooze, and your blood pressure spikes in response to clatter as low as 33 decibels—slightly louder than a purring cat.

Experts say your body does not adapt to noise. Large-scale studies show that if the din keeps up—over days, months, years—noise exposure increases your risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and heart attacks, as well as strokes, diabetes, dementia, and depression. Children suffer not only physically—18 months after a new airport opened in Munich, the blood pressure and stress-hormone levels of neighboring children soared—but also behaviorally and cognitively. A landmark study published in 1975 found that the reading scores of sixth graders whose classroom faced a clattering subway track lagged nearly a year behind those of students in quieter classrooms—a difference that disappeared once soundproofing materials were installed. Noise might also make us mean: A 1969 study suggested that test subjects exposed to noise, even the gentle fuzz of white noise, become more aggressive and more eager to zap fellow subjects with electric shocks.”