Every decibel counts in road traffic noise health risks
However, new research has investigated the negative health impacts over a much shorter term, between zero and two days after exposure to high overnight road traffic noise levels.
Road noise derives from a variety of sources, such as the friction between the tyres and the road, as well as engine noise, which can be suppressed using acoustic insulation in the engine bay.
There may also be extra noise due to driver behaviour, such as aggressive accelerating and unnecessary use of the horn.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research, a team from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and the Instituto de Salud Carlos III explain how nocturnal noise levels from road traffic can have an immediate impact on cardiovascular, respiratory and even diabetes-related mortality.
They found in people aged 65 or over, a 1 dBA increase in maximum night-time road traffic noise raised the risk of myocardial infarction by 3.5%, pneumonia by 3% and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by 4%.
In under-65s, an increase of just 1 dBA raised the risks of both ischemic heart disease and myocardial infarction by 11% within 24 hours.
Both sets of results highlight the risks posed by even short-term exposure to high levels of road traffic noise – and why engine bay acoustic insulation, quieter-running tyres and considerate driving may be even more important at night.