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Air Pollution and Transportation Noise Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Attacks

Individuals who are exposed to air pollution is at risk to respiratory and heart problems. / Photo by: Getty Images

 

For the past few decades, man-inflicted problems mainly caused by human waste material, the release of chemical pollutants and poisonous gases such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers have led to a worldwide environmental crisis. These issues have changed how humans live their lives -- both individually and as a community.

The destruction to our environment not only affects how we, and even wildlife, live our daily lives but also our overall well-being. In fact, exposure to these problems can sometimes lead to respiratory problems, heart problems, and even an increase in the development of certain types of cancer.

The Dangers of Air Pollution

As cities and provinces become more crowded, a lot of establishments and infrastructure are also built. While millions of people move in, roads and factories are also established. It has come to a point when the air that we breathe has become detrimental to our health. It has become so dangerous that living on our planet is no longer safe.

According to the World Health Organization, nine out of ten people breathe in polluted air. Polluted air kills about seven million people every year, and four million of these are caused by indoor air pollution. A tiny microscopic pollutant called PM2.5 that is present in air pollution can enter our body's protective armors such as mucous membranes and other barriers. It can damage our lungs, heart, and brain. The key pollutants that make our air harmful are nitrogen dioxide from road traffic, sulfur dioxide which is an invisible gas from burning fossil fuels like coal, fuel combustion, and ozone at ground level, caused by the reaction of sunlight with pollutants from industrial facilities and vehicle emissions. 

Additionally, the most affected by air pollution are women and children because of household air pollution. They spend long hours inside the house, which is also often polluted by indoor stoves and lamps. Air pollution also affects the continents of Africa and Asia,  where it kills four million people every year. 

Air pollution is difficult to escape. Wherever we may be, microscopic pollutants present in the air can penetrate deep into or circulatory and respiratory system. 

Our World is Getting Louder

The air we breathe in is not just the only risk to our health, as noise pollution can also harm us. Humans use sound in their daily lives. Everyday, we hear loud music on the radio and television, people talking in the streets, and even pets making sounds. Although noise seems to be just a normal sound that humans, pets, and gadgets naturally produce, when not regulated or controlled properly, it stops becoming just noise and starts turning into noise pollution. Unfortunately, these kinds of noises can become solid pollutants. 

According to Everything Connects, noise pollution is an unwanted, disturbing sound which can interfere with normal activities for humans and wildlife. It can come from a number of sources such as aircrafts, ships, trucks, buses, jet planes, construction equipment, automobiles, motorcycles, and many more. Excessive noise pollution not only disrupts people's activities, but can also pose harmful effects on all life forms. In fact, about 15% of adults now have permanent hearing damage due to noise exposure.

The World Health Organization reported that children, chronically ill patients, and elderly people are more vulnerable to noise because they are more sensitive to disturbance. Previous studies have shown that the effects of extreme noise can harm cognitive performance and negatively affect blood pressure and catecholamine hormone secretion.

 

Individuals who are exposed to excessive noise pollution like the one that comes buses can cause permanent hearing damage. / Photo by: tang90246 via 123rf

 

Detrimental Effects on Health

In a recent study titled "A systematic analysis of mutual effects of transportation noise and air pollution exposure on myocardial infarction mortality: a nationwide cohort study in Switzerland," researchers found that air and noise pollution are both associated with an increased risk of heart attacks.

According to Science Daily, the researchers analyzed the combined impacts of air pollution and transportation noise from all the deaths recorded in Switzerland in 2000 and 2008. They found that PM2.5 raised the risk of a heart attack in a particular person by 5.2% per 10 g/m³, while railway and aircraft noise raised the risk of a heart attack by 1.9% per 10 g/m³. Martin Röösli, lead author of the published research, said, "Our study showed that transportation noise increases the risk for a heart attack by 2.0 to 3.4% per 10 decibels increases in the average sound pressure level at home. Strikingly, the effects of noise were independent of air pollution exposure."

Moreover, the study revealed that people who are more exposed to both air and noise pollution are at the highest risk of heart attacks. For so long, many have discussed its individual negative impacts on health but never considered combining the two. The researchers recommended that future studies related to this research should include transportation noise exposure related to air pollution and health. This is to avoid overestimating the negative effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system.

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