NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. –– One in 20 heart attacks in cities may be linked to noise pollution, according to new research. Scientists at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School say that people who live near busy roads, railways, or under flight paths are overwhelmingly more likely to suffer cardiac issues that can’t just be blamed on air pollution or individual health issues.
Heart attack rate in the study was 72 percent higher in places with high transportation noise exposure. Researchers say these areas see 3,336 heart attacks per 100,000 people, compared with 1,938 heart attacks per 100,000 in quieter areas.
Researchers have estimated that high noise exposure accounted for five percent, or one in 20, of all heart attacks in busy cities.
For the study, nearly 16,000 patients hospitalized for heart attack in New Jersey were analyzed in 2018 to calculate the average daily noise experienced at home. They were separated to those who experienced high levels of transportation noise, an average of 65 decibels or higher over the course of the day, and those with low noise exposure, an average of less than 50 decibels.
A noise level of 65 decibels is similar to a loud conversation or laughter.
The study notes that many people may experience periods of relative quiet which are interrupted by louder bursts such as trucks, trains or planes going by.
“When people talk about pollution, they’re usually talking about particles in the air or water. But there are other forms of pollution, and noise pollution is one of these,” says Abel Moreyra, a professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a statement. “As cardiologists, we are used to thinking about many traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension or diabetes. “This study and others suggest maybe we should start thinking about air pollution and noise pollution as additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st Annual Scientific Session.
South West News Service writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.