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How Does Noise Pollution Affect Our Health?

Mar 05 2016 Comments 0

When it comes to the buzzword of pollution, the noise variety gets something like short shrift in terms of media coverage or serious concern. The headlines are generally stolen by the more glamorous (for lack of a better word) air, soil and water pollution kinds, as well as the disastrous but uncommon effects of nuclear waste.

However, the detrimental effect that noise pollution has on our health should not be underestimated. A recent scientific study found an increasing body of evidence to suggest that noise pollution can have both mental and physical effects, as well as potentially inhibiting the learning capacity of children.

Physical Effects of Noise Pollution

Recent investigations have found that noise pollution can have adverse effects on marine and animal populations, largely due to the disruption of their mating and foraging cycles. While its effect on humans might be slightly more sophisticated, there is evidence to show that noise pollution can significant raise blood pressure levels, which can in turn lead to more serious health complications.

In particular, residents living in the vicinity of a noisy airport such as Heathrow were found to be at increased risk of cardiovascular ailments, coronary heart disease and stroke. Sceptics might argue that this could be attributable to the increased emissions levels in such areas rather than any increase in decibel levels, but that view appears to have been disproved by another, longer study which took place over 15 years.

This one found that there was a direct correlation between increased decibels and heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. In fact, for a mere elevation of 10 decibels, the rate of hospital admittances jumped up between 7% and 17%.

Mental Effects of Noise Pollution

The mental effects of noise pollution should be evident to anyone who has attended a live music event or heard a HGV roll past at close-quarters. In addition to the discomfort (or even pain) suffered, prolonged exposure to such noises can lead to latent feelings of annoyance, disturbance and irritation.

These emotions can manifest themselves as physical problems such as headaches, nausea or dizziness. Repeated exposure over a concerted period of time can even cause extreme nervousness, depression and mood swings.

Sleep disturbance could be another factor which adversely affects mental health – and, as a knock-on effect, physical health. Repeatedly being woken up throughout the night can strain and ultimately damage your central nervous system, leading to a whole raft of grave health concerns.

Noise Pollution and the Very Young

There have been many studies conducted which focus on links between memory and learning capacity and external noise pollution, whether it be caused by aircraft or road traffic. One particular report concluded that exposure to the high decibel levels caused by air traffic could lead to slower reading abilities and poorer memories, even when the children’s social situation was factored in.

In fact, British children were found to have their reading level held back by as much as two months for every five decibel rise in the surrounding atmosphere.

With more than 1,000 schools located within 150m of a busy road in the UK capital of London alone, it should be clear that noise pollution could be compromising the future of our young scholars more than previously imagined. Clearly, it’s time to stop side-lining noise pollution and time to start recognising it for the serious social, physical and mental problem that it is.

Image Source: Eli Jones  
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