While jogging this morning, several planes flew overhead, some of them so close that I could hear their engines above the music playing on my mp3 player.
Noise has adverse effects on our health, from the ears to the heart. A previous post has discussed how noise in the workplace can increase heart attack risk. But it is not only occupational noise that we get exposed to. There is also the environmental noise in the place where we reside. And this usually comes from traffic noise – be it land traffic or air traffic.
Previous research in Germany showed that people residing close to major airports have a much higher risk for cardiovascular mortality. However, it was not so easy to pinpoint exactly the source of xxx because of many contributing factors, including air pollution.
Now, Swiss researchers at the University of Bern used geospatial noise and air pollution models that could distinguish between the effects of these contributing factors. Their research results show that it is the air traffic noise that contributes mainly to increased cardiovascular risk.
Based on data from the ongoing Swiss National Cohort longitudinal study which followed up around 4.6 million adults:
- · The risk of dying from a heart attack is greater for people exposed to the noise of aircraft flying overhead.
- · Mortality from heart attack increased with the level of aircraft noise and its duration. Deaths from other causes, including stroke and lung cancer, were not associated with aircraft noise.
- · Exposure to an average daily noise level of 60 decibels or greater led to a 30 percent higher risk of a lethal heart attack over people exposed to an average of under 45 decibels.
- · The effect was greater for people living under a flight path for long periods and for those exposed to high levels of aircraft noise. For people who had lived in a high noise level area 15 years or longer, the risk increased to 50 percent higher. Living closer than 100 meters from a busy road also increased the risk, but air pollution had no impact on heart attack death rates.
The results of these studies are very relevant to me and my family as we used to live near the biggest airport of Germany (Frankfurt) and now the biggest airport of Switzerland (Zurich). Our current place of residence is especially close, just 10 minutes by car, 20 minutes by bus, 5 minutes by train and on clear day, we can see our house from the plane depending on flight path and wind direction.
It is not always possible to choose the perfect place of residence. The good jobs are in the major cities and big cities mean big airports. My husband does a lot of business travel and we as a family do a lot of holiday travel by air. Living close to a major airport has its advantages – but apparently also some disadvantages.
However, air travel and airports are part of modern life and we cannot do without them. But we can do a lot in terms of reducing our risk for cardiovascular diseases. We cannot always determine where we live and but we certainly can determine how we live.