For public health policy and planning it is important to understand the relative contribution of environmental noise on health compared to other environmental stressors. Air pollution is the primary environmental stressor in relation to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This paper reports a narrative review of studies in which the associations of both environmental noise and air pollution with health have been examined. Studies of hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, mortality and cognitive outcomes were included. Results suggest independent effects of environmental noise from road traffic, aircraft and, with fewer studies, railway noise on cardiovascular outcomes after adjustment for air pollution. Comparative burden of disease studies demonstrate that air pollution is the primary environmental cause of disability adjusted life years lost (DALYs). Environmental noise is ranked second in terms of DALYs in Europe and the DALYs attributed to noise were more than those attributed to lead, ozone and dioxins. In conclusion, in planning and health impact assessment environmental noise should be considered an independent contributor to health risk which has a separate and substantial role in ill-health separate to that of air pollution.
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