The World Health Organization recently recognized environmental noise as harmful pollution, with adverse psychosocial and physiological effects on public health. A new study of noise pollution in Fulton County, Georgia, suggests that many residents are exposed to high noise levels that put them at risk of annoyance or sleep disturbance, which can have serious health consequences. The research is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Our research estimated that the percentage of the overall populations at risk of high annoyance is 9.5%, and highly disturbed sleep at 2.3%,” says co-investigator James B. Holt, PhD, of the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga. “Long-term exposure to noise could increase the risks of heart attack and high blood pressure. Nighttime noise can reduce sleep quality and increase morning tiredness and insomnia.”
Dr Holt suggests that more studies are needed to gain insights into the severity of road traffic noise in US urban communities. “We believe it is time to begin extensive traffic-related noise research and establish up-to-date policies to control and abate noise problems for our communities,” he says. “Adequate restful sleep and mental well-being are as essential to good health as adequate nutrition and physical activity. Assessing and alleviating environmental noise is an essential element for improving or creating healthy communities where adults and children can play, work, and live.”