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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note

Air Date: Week of June 1, 2001

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Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on weeding techniques used by ants to keep their gardens invader-free.

Transcript

GRABER: Studies have shown that discrete loud noises can damage children's hearing. Now there's evidence that continual ambient noise may also harm a child's general emotional and physical health. In the first study looking at non-hearing effects of noise, scientists examined the health of a 115 fourth-graders in Austria. About half of them lived in relatively quiet neighborhoods, but the other half lived places where the ambient noise level was above 60 decibels. That's about the equivalent of having to constantly listen to a dishwasher or raised voices. Scientists found that even low levels of noise triggered symptoms of nervousness and decreased motivation. They also found that the children in the noisier neighborhoods had slightly higher blood pressure and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Higher blood pressure and increased stress hormones are linked to a variety of adult illnesses, including high cholesterol, a weaker immune system, and heart disease. The researchers conclude that the stressful sound of continual loud noise may lead to serious learning, health, and motivation problems. They plan to continue to monitor the Austrian children to see if there is any long-term health effect from the constant outdoor buzz. That's this week's health note. I'm Cynthia Graber.

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