Nowadays it’s very difficult to find a place that’s both quiet and has good air quality unless you’re living in a remote area. Even if you’re working from home in countryside areas, there can still be an increase in noise and air pollution from more aircrafts, increased construction, new housing, more traffic and more noisy technology being used in and out of homes. Increasingly, there is evidence showing noise and air pollution as incredibly harmful to the long-term health of humans, both physically and mentally.
Here’s why more organisations should focus on the wellbeing of their employees and local communities when it comes to pollution.
The Physical Impact
Studies have shown that noise pollution can increase the risks of high blood pressure and noise exposure at night can have adverse effects on your heart rate. A UK medical research study revealed that people that lived near airports in London had an increased risk of heart disease or being admitted for hospital for cardiovascular issues such as a stroke. Several other medical studies and projects (such as the Aviation Noise Impacts Report, Swiss National Cohort Report and Health Consequences of Aircraft Noise) explain how noise exposure over a longer period time has a strong correlation with higher deaths from heart attacks and strokes. Even an increase in 10dB over a sustained period showed an increase of up to 7% to 17% likelihood to have a heart attack.
Air pollution from vehicles, construction sites and machinery that produces bad and toxic air can also cause long-term health issues. Various pollutants can have different effects on humans (which is also displayed in our graph below) such as:
- Nitrogen (NO2) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) can increase symptoms of lung diseases, reduces immunity and aggravate the airways which can cause asthma.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) can trigger damage to vital organs and prevent oxygen being carried by red blood cells which can lead to heart diseases due to a lack of oxygen being supplied to the heart.
- Particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5 PM10) can significantly impact the human organs by causing heart or lung diseases and inflammation across vital organs. It also increases your chances of death against viral diseases such as COVID.
Large scale medical research how bad the long-term impact of air pollution is, with an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally linked to outdoor air pollution, mainly from heart diseases and respiratory infections (World Health Organization, 2020). Worldwide medical research has shown that “29% of all deaths/disease from lung cancer come from air pollution, likewise 24% of all deaths from stroke and 43% of all deaths/disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”. Meanwhile, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has indicated in their air quality report that certain pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide are down from previous years in the UK, but others are dangerously high and not dropping at all. According to the Guardian report, scientists have also estimated that over 800,000 people die prematurely in Europe alone due to toxic air caused by fossil fuels.
Most fossil fuels are produced from organisations in construction and large companies due to the amount of fuel produced from transportation and machinery. Even though individually we all need to play our part, organisations need to realise how crucial it is to change their ways and to invest in greener methods to protect their workforce’s health and improve the quality of life for all.
The Emotional and Mental Impact
Pollution doesn’t just impact our physical health; it also impacts our mental wellbeing. Several academic studies and research cases have shown that an increase or prolonged noise can increase stress and anxiety hormones and also impair our cognitive performance.
This 2013 academic study produced by the European Heart Journal is an example of how sustained noise, especially during night time, can increase mental health issues to both children and adults. ‘Noise annoyance’ as it’s called has shown to make humans irritable, frustrated, depressed and feeling unsafe. But it’s not just noise pollution that can influence mental health issues; bad air quality can also impact our mental wellbeing. Whilst it’s more evident that air pollution causes physical health conditions, there is growing evidence to suggest it could potentially impact our mental health too. Several research bodies are investigating the science behind it and initial conclusions from projects across different countries show that there is higher rate of depression and mental health conditions in locations with high air pollution.
It’s evident that both air and noise pollution are overwhelmingly bad to our health, increasing deaths worldwide and is damaging to our quality of life. But to fight the ongoing battle against pollution, organisations of all kinds will need to play their part and take social responsibility for their own actions. If you’re finding it a challenge to measure your organisations impact on air/noise pollution, then learn how a digital pollution tracking platform can help you to really understand your pollution levels and take effective action for good.