Health Toll of Noise Pollution Documented in New European Study

Exposure to noise pollution is shortening lives and causing significant health problems in Western Europe, and is second only to air pollution as a cause of environmental health problems, according to the world’s first comprehensive report on the health effects of noise. An analysis of existing epidemiological studies found that at least 1 million healthy years of living are lost annually among the region’s 340 million adults as a result of exposure to environmental noise, according to the study by the World Health Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Heart disease caused by noise exposure — which can lead to elevated blood pressure and increased concentrations of stress hormones — costs western Europeans about 61,000 healthy life years annually, and causes about 3,000 deaths, the study says. Health impacts associated with sleep deprivation alone costs about 903,000 years of healthy living each year. “I think this really puts noise on a footing where it needs to be taken seriously,” Deepak Prasher, an expert on the health effects of noise exposure, told NewScientist. “Governments need to acknowledge that it is a problem.”