EXPOSURE to air pollution and road traffic noise could increase the risk of developing heart failure. While previous research has shown a correlation between cardiovascular disease and air pollution, this new study has revealed that noise pollution may also increase incidence.
In Denmark, 20,000 female nurses were recruited in either 1993 or 1999 to evaluate the impact of air and traffic noise pollution on heart failure. At enrolment, all participants were at least 44 years old and had to complete a comprehensive questionnaire that asked about BMI, lifestyle factors (smoking habits, alcohol consumption, diet, and physical exercise), pre-existing health conditions, and working conditions. Over the past 15–20 years, participants provided updates on their residences if they moved house.
Using the Nord2000, researchers estimated the level of noise pollution from road traffic within a 3 km radius of the participants’ rural, urban, or suburban residences. An increase of 9.3 decibels of road traffic noise over 3 years was found to increase the risk of incident heart failure by 12%.
Fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide were measured using a Danish air pollution modelling system. The study showed that an increase of exposure to particulate matter by 5.1 μg/m3 and nitrogen dioxide by 8.6 μg/m3 over 3 years increased the risk of incident heart failure by 17% and 10%, respectively; the risk increased to 72% for former smokers.
However, this analysis did not include measures of individual exposure to air and noise pollution, which could have affected the study results. For example, the researchers did not have access to information to the amount of time spent outdoors or the thickness of the participants’ windows, which can influence noise pollution levels. Furthermore, a quarter of participants were excluded due to incomplete questionnaires either at the beginning or end of the study.
However, Youn-Hee Lim, lead author and Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, believes that there is a way for individuals to reduce their risk of developing heart failure. “To minimise the impact of these exposures, broad public tactics such as emissions control measures should be implemented,” said Lim. “Strategies like smoking cessation and blood pressure control must be encouraged to help reduce individual risk.”
The researchers have expressed caution when generalising the results for males or other populations, as they only investigated exposure and health outcomes for female nurses.