A recent publication of the Department of Cardiology of the University Medial Center Mainz in the renowned cardiovascular journal “Basic Research in Cardiology” demonstrates for the first time findings that explain the increased occurrence of cardiovascular diseases as a result of railway noise.
According to more conservative estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), 61,000 healthy years of life due to chronic ischemic heart disease, 45,000 due to cognitive perceptional impairment in children, 903,000 due to sleep disorders, 22,000 due to tinnitus and 654,000 due to anger (annoyance) are lost each year. Thus, in terms of noise, up to 1.6 million healthy years of life are lost every year in Western Europe.
In particular, the Rhine-Main area is exposed to heavy loads from road, rail and aircraft noise. In the Middle Rhine Valley, one registers up to 130 trains per night, peak sound levels up to 90-100 dB(A) and average sound levels of > 60 dB(A). The World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, recommends a mean sound level of 44 dB(A) (Lnight) for the night, since at higher noise levels sleep disorders and more cardiovascular diseases are expected.
In field trials in the years 2012-2015, the research group of Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Muenzel of the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Center Mainz could prove that simulated nocturnal aircraft noise markedly worsens the vascular function (endothelial function) of healthy persons and patients with established coronary heart disease, increases stress hormones and drastically worsens the quality of sleep.
So far, there has been no noise impact research that has studied under controlled conditions the effects of railway noise on vascular function. In the current study simulated nocturnal railway noise with 65 dB(A) peak noise levels and up to 54 dB(A) mean sound pressure levels (30-60 railway noise events per night) led to a substantial deterioration of vascular function, an established parameter in cardiology for diagnosing the early, subclinical stages of atherosclerosis (vascular calcification). This vascular damage was significantly improved by acute challenges with vitamin C (2 grams p.o.). At the same time, changes in the proteins in the blood towards thrombosis, oxidative stress and inflammation were established in the blood of subjects exposed to radioactive tissue, which may explain the increased risk of developing future cardiovascular diseases such as arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction and heart failure.
The team of researchers consisting of e.g. Johannes Herzog, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Daiber, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Muenzel and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Philip Wild of the University Medical Center Mainz as well as the renowned noise researcher Mette Sørensen (M.Sc., PhD) from the University of Southern Denmark is surprised by the extent of vascular damage: “These changes in vascular function are usually only seen in patients with pronounced cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension or in chronic smokers. The fact that vitamin C enhances vascular function means that free radicals play an important role as the cause of vascular damage. However, the vitamin C results have no therapeutic significance, since its effectiveness is usually lost during continuous use. The significant changes in the blood plasma levels of 31 proteins, which are predominantly responsible for prothrombotic, pro-oxidative and pro-inflammatory processes, are alarming.”
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Muenzel adds: “The results clearly show that nocturnal railway noise is an important cardiovascular risk factor due to the negative effects on vascular function. The current WHO recommendations regarding nighttime noise caused by train noise (Lnight 44 dB(A)) are being substantially and permanently exceeded in the Rhine Valley and this must have health policy consequences.”
Johannes Herzog, Frank P. Schmidt, Omar Hahad, Seyed H. Mahmoudpour, Alina K. Mangold, Pascal Garcia Andreo, Jürgen Prochaska, Thomas Koeck, Philipp S. Wild, Mette Sørensen, Andreas Daiber, Thomas Muenzel. Acute exposure to nocturnal train noise induces endothelial dysfunction and pro-thromboinflammatory changes of the plasma proteome in healthy subjects. Basic Research in Cardiology.
Caption: Research conducted by the Department of Cardiology of the University Medical Center Mainz proves negative consequences of nocturnal railway noise on personal health.
Photo: Peter Pulkowski (University Medical Center Mainz)
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Muenzel,
Head of the Department of Cardiology, Cardiology I, University Medical Center Mainz,
Tel.: +49 (0)6131 17-7250, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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