Screaming for Quiet: Germans Crank Up Anti-Noise Protests

Despite numerous studies warning of associated health risks, politicians are merely giving lip service to the worries

Matthias Bartsch — Spiegel Online —  October 7, 2013

How Noise Affects Health

… the noisy present is easily experienced during a visit to the Rhine Valley. According to official readings, the trains generate noise levels of up to 110 decibels. This corresponds to the amount of noise made by a chainsaw being operated at full power heard from a distance of one meter (3.3 feet). The soundproofing windows Sandra Pohl had installed in her house can do little to offset such high noise levels. “I often don’t sleep well, wake up several times every night and then feel exhausted when I go to work,” she says.

Living with this much noise isn’t just annoying; as numerous scientific studies have shown, it’s also very unhealthy. For example, it increases the risk of:

Heart attacks: According to a University of Bern study, for which data from 4.6 million people was analyzed, average noise levels of a little more than 45 decibels are already enough to increase the risk of heart attack, and for longer-term exposure, it even increases by up to 2.2 times;

High blood pressure: According to a study funded by the European Commission and involving close to 5,000 people living near the airports in Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, London, Milan and Stockholm, an increase of 10 decibels at night raises the risk of high blood pressure by about 14 percent. The researchers found similar effects among Berlin residents exposed to street noise;

Cardiovascular illnesses: As part of a study for the UBA, Bremen epidemiologist Eberhard Greiser analyzed data for a million people living near Cologne/Bonn Airport. They found that the risk of cardiovascular illnesses increases noticeably with prolonged exposure to noise levels of only 40 decibels. On average, men and women living near the airport took significantly more medications against high blood pressure, depression and sleep disorders.

Two-and-a-half months ago, a team headed by Mainz cardiologist Thomas Münzel provided a substantiated medical explanation for all of these observations. They had connected 75 volunteers aged 20 to 60 to blood pressure and heart rate monitors for several nights, and had exposed them to the simulated noise of landing aircraft on an MP3 player up to 60 times a night. After waking up, the subjects were also examined with ultrasound diagnostic equipment.

“The results clearly show that aircraft noise, even at relatively low noise levels, causes damage to the blood vessels,” says Münzel. The study found that nighttime traffic noise raises blood pressure, causes the release of stress hormones, such as adrenalin, and stiffens blood vessels. In the long term, this can trigger chronic cardiovascular diseases, even to the point of life-threatening heart attacks.

The Mainz researchers were especially alarmed by the fact that they were unable to discern any adaptation effects even after the noise exposure procedure was repeated several times. “Blood pressure rises regardless of whether you wake up from the noise or not,” says heart specialist Münzel. He notes that stress on the blood vessels was also observed in those subjects who claim to have gotten used to the noise.  Read full article, here…..

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