“Relation between annoyance caused by traffic related air pollution and noise and pollutants associated with traffic”


There is a strong scientific evidence of the dangers that both air pollution and noise pose to health. Actually, the scientific community has also begun to pay more attention to reactions that are important to human well-being and yet are rarely studied. Scientifics are assessing annoyance in relation to sensory perception of harmful environmental agents and possible subsequent adverse effects on physical and psychological health. But, how this discomfort due to air pollution and noise is related to health? In this sense, there is scarce information, but recent evidence suggests that potential stress-related modifications are associated. Apart from psychological effects, stress can influence immune function and cause increased susceptibility to diseases, thus enhancing the effects of pollution. During pregnancy, stress can affect the prenatal development of the neuroendocrine and respiratory system. Annoyance, as a first negative reaction, could be an early warning of health impairment. However, information about the relationship between exposure to environmental stressors and annoyance response is limited.

This study describes the degree of annoyance caused by air pollution and noise in a Spanish cohort of 2,457 pregnant women and it examines the correlation with the exposure to pollutants related to traffic and other associated factors.

According to the results, around half of pregnant women reported medium or high levels owing to air pollution or noise. In this case, the discomfort reported by the Spanish population was low compared with others European populations. Annoyance was related to building age and to the proximity of the residences to intense traffic. Residence location and age had more influence on the perception of discomfort rather than other socio-economic characteristics of study participants. The findings suggest that more pollution means more perception of pollution. Anyway, there were high levels of annoyance reported even when the estimated air pollution levels complied with current WHO guidelines, emphasizing the need to reduce air pollution even further.

Therefore, the study provides evidence that the health burden related of these exposures can be increased by stress caused by the perception of harmful environmental sources.

Reference: Fernández-Somoano A, Llop S, Aguilera I, Tamayo-Uria I, Martínez MD, Foraster M, Ballester F, Tardón A. Annoyance Caused by Noise and Air Pollution during Pregnancy: Associated Factors and Correlation with Outdoor NO2 and Benzene Estimations. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun 18;12(6):7044-58.