EPA study links common heart problem to road traffic noise 

EPA study links common heart problem to road traffic noise 

The EPA report suggests that there is little  knowledge among the general public, of the correlation between road noise, and your health. Picture: Denis Minihane

Road traffic noise is responsible for almost 2% of all cases of a common heart problem in Ireland, according to a new report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study estimates that noise from road vehicles was linked to 256 cases of ischemic heart disease — the narrowing of heart arteries — which represents 1.87% of all such cases.

It claimed the problem resulted in 3,445 lost years of a healthy life for affected individuals.

The report, which was commissioned by the EPA, set out to establish the harmful effects on the health of the population of environmental noise from road, rail, and air transport in Ireland.

It is estimated that almost 6% of the population — 267,580 individuals — experienced “high annoyance” from road traffic noise.

In addition, 25,247 individuals suffered the same effect from railway noise, and 3,644 from aircraft noise.

The report estimated that 2% of the population — a total of 95,870 individuals — experience “high sleep disturbance” from road traffic, with another 13,721 affected in a similar way by railway noise, and 360 by aircraft noise.

Consequences of transport noise

The study, which was co-funded by the EPA and the HSE, concluded that the impact of all forms of transport noise resulted in over 14,000 years of healthy life lost due to related ischemic heart disease, high annoyance, and high sleep disturbance.

The report said its findings:

 Emphasises the need for policy and planning authorities to regard environmental noise as a serious health concern for the Irish population.

It observed that its findings on the harmful effects of road and railway noise were generally similar to other international studies, but the adverse effects of aircraft noise in Ireland appeared to be “considerably lower” and “dramatically different”.

While noise from aircraft causes the most severe disturbance, noise from road vehicles has an impact on the greatest number of people, in terms of sleep disturbance and stress-related annoyance.

Exposure to environmental noise has also been associated with increased risk of serious cardiovascular disease including a heart attack and stroke, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.

The EPA report noted studies are also emerging suggesting links between environmental noise and various cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Little regulation 

It observed that while most EU member states have established compulsory noise limit values enforced by law, there are no statutory limits on noise levels in Ireland, although some limits can be set for certain activities by the EPA.

The study said there was no evidence to suggest there is widespread public awareness of the relationship between environmental noise and health.

The report recommended that the EU’s environmental noise directive should stipulate limits for exposure to potentially harmful levels of noise, with the EPA working towards establishing national environmental noise limits in Ireland, in order to protect public health.

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