Noise Pollution: Your life can get sucked out through your ears

The World Health Organization calculated deaths and disabilities caused by noise pollution. Turns out the numbers are second only to air pollution. Find out how noise kills.

It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, you can talk someone to death. You can also honk, bark, bass line them to death. You just have to be willing to put in the time. The World Health Organization got together with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre to study the effects of noise pollution on Europeans. The paper they published on the subject claims that noise pollution causes about 3,000 deaths per year in Europe. Only air pollution was a bigger environmental killer.

Some skepticism about the subject is understandable. Air pollution is tiny little particles of poison suspended in the atmosphere. Noise pollution is Top 40 Radio, without the electromagnetic waves. The commission doesn't make a strong case for itself by listing that 'annoyance' costs the people of Western Europe over half a million years of 'healthy living' annually. However, there is a medical basis for the idea that noise does directly cause health problems. Loss of sleep undoubtedly affects a person's health, and anyone who's lived next to construction sites knows very well. Even people who do sleep through noise can be affected by it. Noise in an environment raises blood pressure, fatty materials in blood, and stress hormone concentrations in blood. Given enough time, the fatty materials can cut off blood vessels and cause heart attacks.

The authors of the study would like leaders to prioritize the development of ultra-quiet cars and public transportation. Ideally, roads could be surfaced with high-pore materials that muffle car noise and reflected noise. They'd also like to subsidize double-glazed windows in houses. No word on whether ear plugs would be feasible, as well.

Via New Scientist.