Photo credit: Darya Sannikova

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Car noise is killing us. That’s the title of a post on Planetizen, a website covering urban planning issues. What is planning? Planetizen defines it as “the professional practice and academic study of the future of built and nature environments–from the smallest towns to the largest cities and everything in between.”

The Planetizen report actually refers to Dr. Alberto Moreyra’s presentation at the April 2, 2022, American Heart Association scientific session–the title slightly distorts Dr. Moreyra’s research. Dr. Moreyra and his associates looked at transportation noise in general, which includes road traffic noise, railroad noise, and aircraft noise. Road traffic noise includes that from motorcycles and trucks, not just that from cars. The research showed that 5% of heart attacks in 2018 New Jersey could be attributed to transportation noise, not just car noise.

Road traffic noise may be the easiest to mitigate. Enforcement of existing laws about vehicle noise, exhaust systems, etc. would be a good start, but specifications for road surfaces and tires can reduce road traffic noise by 10 decibels. Dealing with aircraft noise, which travels farther, is more difficult.

Noise is the unwanted sound track to the internal combustion engine. Fossil fuels powering internal combustion engines pollute the air and contribute to climate change.

For surface transportation, mass transit reduces pollution and allows better land use. We hope that electric-powered aircraft engines will clear the air and make it quieter, too, but that remains to be seen.

One thing we’re sure of, though: quieter cities with cleaner air will be healthier cities for all.