Exposures to transit and other sources of noise among New York City residents

Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Jan 3;46(1):500-8. doi: 10.1021/es2025406. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


To evaluate the contributions of common noise sources to total annual noise exposures among urban residents and workers, we estimated exposures associated with five common sources (use of mass transit, occupational and nonoccupational activities, MP3 player and stereo use, and time at home and doing other miscellaneous activities) among a sample of over 4500 individuals in New York City (NYC). We then evaluated the contributions of each source to total noise exposure and also compared our estimated exposures to the recommended 70 dBA annual exposure limit. We found that one in ten transit users had noise exposures in excess of the recommended exposure limit from their transit use alone. When we estimated total annual exposures, 90% of NYC transit users and 87% of nonusers exceeded the recommended limit. MP3 player and stereo use, which represented a small fraction of the total annual hours for each subject on average, was the primary source of exposure among the majority of urban dwellers we evaluated. Our results suggest that the vast majority of urban mass transit riders may be at risk of permanent, irreversible noise-induced hearing loss and that, for many individuals, this risk is driven primarily by exposures other than occupational noise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cities*
  • Demography
  • Ear Protective Devices
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Noise, Occupational*
  • Noise, Transportation*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Young Adult