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by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

The literature linking noise to adverse health effects has grown stronger these last few years and now we can add a recent Danish study published in The British Medical Journal that reports exposure to traffic noise could be linked to dementia. The cited study looked at nearly two million participants over the age of 60 living in Denmark between 2004 and 2017, and it found 103,500 participants with some sort of dementia. While exposure to both road and rail noise was associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia was found to be associated only with road traffic.

The authors of this research admit that there were several limitations with their study; namely, they lacked information on the lifestyle habits of the individuals in the study and had no information on factors such as sound insulation in homes which would have an impact on personal exposure. Thus, the authors called for additional studies to confirm their findings.

Manuella Lech Cantuaria, the lead author, and her associates stressed the need for expanding the knowledge of the harmful effects of transportation noise on health so that “effective policies and public health strategies focused on the prevention and control of diseases, including dementia” could be put in place. With dementia a growing global health issue, the authors believed that “[r]educing noise through transportation and land use programs or building codes should become a public health priority.”

I would like to add that I was impressed that the authors did not simply report their findings but followed with a call for policies that would lessen transportation noise which in turn could prevent and control diseases.