The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) compared the mortality data and acute nocturnal noise pollution in the vicinity of Zurich Airport in the period from 2000 to 2015, as the Swiss THP announced on Friday. The study shows that aircraft noise has similar effects on cardiovascular mortality as emotional stress.
It is well known that chronic noise exposure entails a high risk of ischemic heart disease, according to the media release: In Europe, around 48,000 cases of ischemic heart disease per year can be attributed to noise exposure, especially road traffic noise. It has now been shown, however, that loud aircraft noise at night “can lead to cardiovascular death within two hours”.
Stress and impaired sleep
In absolute numbers, the study shows that in a total of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths near Zurich Airport, 800 aircraft noise were the cause. That corresponds to a share of 3 percent. The study also found that the risk of cardiovascular death increases by 33 percent with nocturnal noise exposure between 40 and 50 decibels and by 44 percent with exposure above 55 decibels.
According to Martin Röösli, correspondent author of the study and head of the “Environmental Exposures and Health” unit at Swiss TPH, the results show that aircraft noise can have similar effects on cardiovascular mortality as emotions, including anger or excitement. “The results are not surprising, because we know that exposure to noise at night causes stress and affects sleep,” he explains. The nocturnal aircraft noise effect was more pronounced in quiet areas with little railroad and road traffic noise. This was also the case with people who live in older, less isolated and therefore noisy houses.
There is a flight ban at Zurich Airport between 11.30 p.m. and 6 a.m. “On the basis of our study results, we can conclude that this nocturnal flight ban prevents additional cardiovascular deaths,” said Röösli. The study was published on Friday in the European Heart Journal.