The Loudest City in the World
The constant roar of traffic, incessant construction noise, piercing sirens, honking horns, shrieking loudspeakers – noise in cities is clearly a nuisance.
But it’s also a danger. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described noise pollution as an underestimated threat that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress and depression. Some experts go further: they believe exposure to environmental noise could be slowly killing us.
What will our cities sound like in the future?
“Noise pollution causes hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes and death,” says Dr Daniel Fink, chairman of the Quiet Coalition, a community of health and legal professionals concerned with the adverse impacts of environmental noise.
Noise pollution is often cited as one of the main factors in the reduced quality of life in large, 24-hour cities like New York (where more than 200,000 noise complaints were recorded in 2016). It causes stress, which has its own adverse effects on health.
While the impact of noise on mental health has not been studied extensively, research has shown that “strong noise annoyance is associated with a twofold higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in the general population”.
A recent study by experts at the American College of Cardiology linked noise pollution to increased cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, coronary heart disease) through the body’s stress mediated response – resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn damages blood vessels.
At a conference on noise organised by the European commission in April 2017, noise was regarded as “the silent killer”, with potentially severe consequences for our physical and mental health. And yet its impacts remain unreported and underestimated.