Photo credit: Dany Kurniawan
by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
On July 6, Jamie Banks, president of Quiet Communities and chair of the Noise & Health Committee of the American Public Health Association , joined guests Peter James, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Mathias Basner, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a member of the QC Scientific Advisory Council, for the program, “How Chronic Noise Affects the Human Body” on the daily NPR show 1A from WAMU in Washington, D.C. Responding to questions from host Jenn White, the three spoke about the dangers to health of chronic noise exposure and discussed some measures that could be taken to mitigate those dangers.
Dr. Banks cited the new definition of noise – unwanted and/or harmful sound – recently adopted by the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise (read the Quiet Coalition story about the announcement here).The expanded definition was also used to define noise in the APHA policy statement, Noise as a Public Health Hazard. Dr. Banks discussed the stress-mediated events that happen in the body as a result of noise that contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disturbances. She also shared how defunding of the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control halted the nation’s progress on noise, and thwarted actions by the federal government and others that could help mitigate the problem of chronic noise.
Dr. James spoke to some of the complexities in defining and measuring chronic noise, the effects on health and the need for better noise maps. He described some of the shortcomings of common noise metrics and the need for metrics that can be linked to health outcomes. He also discussed individual differences in response to noise, and the disparate impacts on low income communities.
Dr. Basner, one of the world’s experts on the effect of noise on sleep and a past president of ICBEN, described the negative impacts of intermittent noise on sleep. By fragmenting sleep, intermittent noise diminishes the body’s ability to recuperate – by reducing the ability to clear out proteins that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, interrupting the secretion of hormones and impairing consolidation of memories. These effects can have long-term negative health consequences. Dr. Basner emphasized the importance of sleep quality and duration to overall health.
We urge you to listen to this broadcast and to recognize that noise is a public health problem. Join us in working to make the world a quieter, healthier, better place for all and become a member or donate.