Airplane Noise, High Blood Pressure Linked

A new study that links airplane noise and high blood pressure could have widespread impact not only for people living near airports, but for workers exposed to high levels of occupational noise.

As anyone who has ever lived near an airport can attest, the noise from the planes taking off and landing can be annoying. But did you know it might also be unhealthy?

The findings of a group of Swedish researchers could have widespread impact not only for people living near airports, but for workers exposed to high levels of occupational noise.

The researchers examined two groups of people - ages 19 to 80 - one group who lived near to the Stockholm Arlanda Airport and one group who lived farther away from the flight path. Dr. Mats Rosenlund and his colleagues at the Department of Environmental Health in Stockholm made a surprising discovery. The study participants living close to the airport had blood pressure as much as 80 percent higher than those participants living the farthest away.

Rosenlund and his team compared 266 people living near the airport with 2,693 other Stockholm residents. The participants filled out a questionnaire that examined their diet, amount of exercise and history of smoking. Participants were asked if they had ever received a diagnosis of high blood pressure from a doctor.

In an article written for the December issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the researchers reported that people exposed to average aircraft noise levels of 55 decibels or higher were 60 percent more likely to report having been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Those exposed to more than 72 decibels of noise reported an 80 percent more likely to report they had high blood pressure.

Of the group living farther away from the airport, 14 percent reported they had high blood pressure, compared with 20 percent of those living near the airport who regularly faced noise levels of 55 decibels or higher.

The findings could be significant for workers who are exposed to loud noise. Not only could their hearing be in danger, but their hearts as well. The researchers suggest that there is a correlation between loud noise and high blood pressure, which in turn suggests that loud noise could increase heart disease risk.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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