8 January 2015

Health impact assessment of traffic noise in Madrid, Spain

Environmental Research Volume 137, February 2015, Pages 136–140

  • The results obtained tend to question the WHO health protection threshold values. 
  • This study highlights the importance of traffic noise to the health in large cities. 
  • These results serve to highlight the need to implement noise-abatement measures.


The relationship between environmental noise and health has been examined in depth. In view of the sheer number of persons exposed, attention should be focused on road traffic noise.

The city of Madrid (Spain) is a densely populated metropolitan area in which 80% of all environmental noise exposure is attributed to traffic.

The aim of this study was to quantify avoidable deaths resulting from reducing the impact of equivalent diurnal noise levels (LeqD) on daily cardiovascular and respiratory mortality among people aged ≥65 years in Madrid.

A health impact assessment of (average 24 h) LeqD and PM2.5 levels was conducted by using previously reported risk estimates of mortality rates for the period 2003–2005: 

For cardiovascular causes: LeqD 1.048 (1.005, 1.092) and PM2.5 1.041(1.020, 1.062) 

For respiratory causes: LeqD 1.060 (1.000, 1.123) and PM2.5 1.030 (1.000, 1.062).

The association found between LeqD exposure and mortality for both causes suggests an important health effect. A reduction of 1 dB(A) in LeqD implies an avoidable annual mortality of 284 (31, 523) cardiovascular- and 184 (0, 190) respiratory-related deaths in the study population.

The magnitude of the health impact is similar to reducing average PM2.5levels by 10 µg/m3. Regardless of air pollution, exposure to traffic noise should be considered an important environmental factor having a significant impact on health.

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