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Page Three of an eleven-page article:
Noise: A Health Problem
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Heart Disease

"We now have millions with heart disease, high blood pressure, and emotional illness who need protection from the additional stress of noise."
Dr. Samuel Rosen, Mt. Sinai Hospital

While no one has yet shown that noise inflicts any measurable damage to the heart itself, a growing body of evidence strongly suggests a link between exposure to noise and the development and aggravation of a number of heart disease problems. The explanation? Noise causes stress and the body reacts with increased adrenaline, changes in heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.

Noise, however, is only one of several environmental causes of stress. For this reason, researchers cannot say with confidence that noise alone caused the heart and circulatory problems they have observed. What they can point to is a statistical relationship apparent in several field and laboratory studies.

The best available studies are those that have been conducted in industrial settings. For example, steel workers and machine shop operators laboring under the stress of high noise levels had a higher incidence of circulatory problems than did workers in quiet industries. A German study has documented a higher rate of heart disease in noisy industries. In Sweden, several researchers have noted more cases of high blood pressure among workers exposed to high levels of noise.

Some laboratory tests have produced observable physical changes. In one instance, rabbits exposed for l0 weeks to noise levels common to very noisy industries developed a much higher level of blood cholesterol than did unexposed rabbits on the same diet.

Similarly, a monkey subjected to a day-long tape recording of the normal street noises outside a hospital developed higher blood pressure and an increased heart rate. In a test on humans, people subjected to moderately loud noise during different states of sleep exhibited constriction of the outer blood vessels.

Among the more serious recent findings in settings other than the laboratory or industry is the preliminary conclusion that grade school children exposed to aircraft noise in school and at home had higher blood pressures than children in quieter areas. The exact implications for these children's health are not known, but certainly this finding is cause for serious concern.

Because the danger of stress from noise is greater for those already suffering from heart disease, physicians frequently take measures to reduce the noise exposure of their patients. For instance, a town in New Jersey moved a firehouse siren away from the home of a boy with congenital heart disease when his doctor warned that the sound of the siren could cause the boy to have a fatal spasm. Another doctor ordered a silencing device for the phone of a recuperating heart patient.

As William Stewart, former Surgeon General of the United States, has pointed out, there are many incidents of heart disease occuring daily in the U S for which "the noise of twentieth century living is a major contributory cause." While the precise role of noise in causing or aggravating heart disease remains unclear, the illness is such a problem in our society that even a small increase in the percentage of heart problems caused by noise could prove debilitating to many thousands of Americans.

Noise may produce high blood pressure, faster heart rates, and increased adrenaline

Noise may contribute to heart and circulatory disease

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This page from the USEPA Report is part of Section Seven:
The Harm section of