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Health consequences of noise exposure from road traffic

Final Report Summary - QUIET (Health consequences of noise exposure from road traffic)

Traffic noise stresses and disturbs sleep, which could potentially increase the risk for various major diseases. The goal of the QUIET project was to investigate if long-term exposure to traffic noise is detrimental to a number of diseases and conditions among children and elderly; many never investigated before in a noise context. To achieve this goal we assessed residential exposure to traffic noise in two large Danish populations of, respectively, 57,000 elderly and 100,000 children. We identified historical and present addresses for all these participants using Danish registries. Road traffic and railway noise were estimated at all addresses based on a validated mathematical noise model. Also, we estimated exposure to air pollution at all addresses, as this is an important confounder in relation to health effects of road traffic noise. Information on diseases, conditions and lifestyle habits used in the project, was obtained from unique Danish registers as well as from the extensive databases of the two study populations.

Children are considered to be a susceptible group with regard to health effects of noise exposure. We investigated the effect of traffic noise at the home address on different aspects of child health. Our results showed that childhood exposure to traffic noise increased the risk for having behavioral problems at 7 years of age, especially with regard to hyperactivity and/or inattention symptoms. Furthermore, we found childhood exposure to traffic noise to be associated with a higher risk for febrile seizures and potentially also overweight in children. Lastly, we investigated whether exposure to traffic noise during pregnancy was associated with lower birth weight, but found no indications of such an association.

We hypothesized that traffic noise could affect fecundity, estimated by time to pregnancy. The results of our study indicated that noise may have a small impact on sub-fecundity, estimated as trying to become pregnant in 6-12 month before succeeding, whereas we found no association with longer fecundity problems lasting more than 1 year.

We investigated whether traffic noise increased the risk of a number of diseases among elderly. As the first study ever to investigate associations between traffic noise and diabetes, we found that road traffic noise was associated with higher risk for diabetes in an exposure-response dependent manner. We also performed a number of studies on noise and cancer: We found no association between traffic noise and overall breast cancer. However, investigation of sub-types of breast cancer with regard to estrogen receptor status showed that both residential road traffic and railway noise was associated with a higher risk of the estrogen receptor negative breast cancer. Similarly, our results suggested that road traffic noise may be associated with a higher risk for distal colon cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, whereas we found no association with prostate cancer and survival after a diagnosis of breast or colon cancer.

Lastly, we investigated if traffic noise could affect lifestyle habits, important in relation to human health. Our results suggested that especially road traffic noise negatively affected our health behavior, leading to more smokers that smoked more and an increased alcohol consumption. Furthermore, we found both road traffic and railway noise to be associated with physically inactivity estimated as lack of sport during leisure time. Lastly, we found traffic noise to be associated with a higher BMI and waist circumference.