Noise pollution more common in communities of color and racially segregated cities

In communities with larger proportions of minority residents, noise levels are generally higher, according to a study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of California, Berkeley. The study also showed that racially segregated cities in the U.S. generally have higher levels of outdoor noise than more integrated cities.

The study was published July 25, 2017 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

“In this nationwide assessment of noise exposure of every census block group in the U.S., we observed consistent racial and socioeconomic inequities in noise exposure,” said senior author Peter James, assistant professor, Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Lifecourse (CoRAL), Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, who conducted some of the research while at Harvard Chan School. The study also found that, independent of race, residents in segregated metropolitan areas were exposed to higher levels of noise pollution than residents in less segregated cities.

The researchers found common sources of noise included industrial activity, traffic, and airports. Noise pollution previously has been linked to loss of sleep and such health conditions as high blood pressure and hearing loss.

“Differences in noise exposure may have implications for more fully understanding drivers of environmental health disparities in the United States,” the authors concluded.

Read a July 25, 2017 press release: Noise pollution loudest in black neighborhoods, segregated cities

Read a July 25, 2017 Motherboard article: Noise Pollution Hits Segregated Cities Hardest

Learn more

Mapping Boston’s Soundscape (Harvard Public Health magazine)

Secrets of sound health (Harvard Public Health magazine)

Aircraft noise linked with heart problems (Harvard Chan press release)