Why your neighbor’s stereo just might kill you

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Anyone who has lived in a big city knows what it’s like when those inconsiderate neighbors decide to crank up their stereo at two in the morning. Or when rush hour traffic fills your apartment with jarring sounds of honking and cursing. But what we shrug off as the price of living ...

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599785_070824_taxis_05.jpg

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty

Anyone who has lived in a big city knows what it's like when those inconsiderate neighbors decide to crank up their stereo at two in the morning. Or when rush hour traffic fills your apartment with jarring sounds of honking and cursing. But what we shrug off as the price of living in a cosmopolitan town may be deadlier than we thought.

A new study of European cities by the WHO has found that the emotional distress caused by noise pollution is responsible for three out of every 100 deaths typically blamed on heart disease. This could translate to as many as 210,000 deaths in Europe each year due to lack of peace and quiet. The unwanted raucous increases levels of stress hormones, even while we sleep, which can then lead to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure, and immune problems if present in the bloodstream for extended periods of time. 

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty

Anyone who has lived in a big city knows what it’s like when those inconsiderate neighbors decide to crank up their stereo at two in the morning. Or when rush hour traffic fills your apartment with jarring sounds of honking and cursing. But what we shrug off as the price of living in a cosmopolitan town may be deadlier than we thought.

A new study of European cities by the WHO has found that the emotional distress caused by noise pollution is responsible for three out of every 100 deaths typically blamed on heart disease. This could translate to as many as 210,000 deaths in Europe each year due to lack of peace and quiet. The unwanted raucous increases levels of stress hormones, even while we sleep, which can then lead to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure, and immune problems if present in the bloodstream for extended periods of time. 

EU regulators have already sprung into action: By the end of this year, cities with populations exceeding 250,000 will be required by law to produce digitized noise maps marking the noise hotspots (which would really come in handy while apartment hunting). Over on this side of the Atlantic, residents of the “city that never sleeps” might finally be getting some beauty rest thanks to Major Bloomberg’s recent hardening of the city’s noise pollution codes. Under the new rules, music polluters in New York City will be slapped with heavier fines and cars whose alarms go off for more than three minutes at night will be towed.

The WHO study looked only at European cities, so I shudder to think what researchers would find in Cairo, Mumbai, or Beijing. But perhaps those cities can work on clearing the air first before they start going after horn-happy drivers. The air pollution in those place will probably kill you before the noise does.

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