Journal Article

Exposure-Effect Relations between Aircraft and Road Traffic Noise Exposure at School and Reading Comprehension

Charlotte Clark, Rocio Martin, Elise van Kempen, Tamuno Alfred, Jenny Head, Hugh W. Davies, Mary M. Haines, Isabel Lopez Barrio, Mark Matheson and Stephen A. Stansfeld

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 163, issue 1, pages 27-37
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online November 2005 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwj001
Exposure-Effect Relations between Aircraft and Road Traffic Noise Exposure at School and Reading Comprehension

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Transport noise is an increasingly prominent feature of the urban environment, making noise pollution an important environmental public health issue. This paper reports on the 2001–2003 RANCH project, the first cross-national epidemiologic study known to examine exposure-effect relations between aircraft and road traffic noise exposure and reading comprehension. Participants were 2,010 children aged 9–10 years from 89 schools around Amsterdam Schiphol, Madrid Barajas, and London Heathrow airports. Data from the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom were pooled and analyzed using multilevel modeling. Aircraft noise exposure at school was linearly associated with impaired reading comprehension; the association was maintained after adjustment for socioeconomic variables (β = −0.008, p = 0.012), aircraft noise annoyance, and other cognitive abilities (episodic memory, working memory, and sustained attention). Aircraft noise exposure at home was highly correlated with aircraft noise exposure at school and demonstrated a similar linear association with impaired reading comprehension. Road traffic noise exposure at school was not associated with reading comprehension in either the absence or the presence of aircraft noise (β = 0.003, p = 0.509; β = 0.002, p = 0.540, respectively). Findings were consistent across the three countries, which varied with respect to a range of socioeconomic and environmental variables, thus offering robust evidence of a direct exposure-effect relation between aircraft noise and reading comprehension.

Keywords: child psychology; cognition; environment and public health; environmental exposure; noise; reading; dB(A), a measure of sound level in decibels A-weighted to approximate the typical sensitivity of the human ear

Journal Article.  6027 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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