Numerous studies showing statistically significant associations between environmental noise and adverse health effects already exist for short-term (over one day at most) and long-term (over a year or more) noise exposure, both for morbidity and (albeit to a lesser extent) mortality. Recently, several studies have shown this association to be independent from confounders, mainly those of air pollutants. However, what has not been addressed is the problem of misalignment (i.e. the exposure data locations and health outcomes have different spatial locations). Without any explicit control of such misalignment inference is seriously compromised. Our objective is to assess the long-term effects of traffic noise on mortality in the city of Barcelona (Spain) during 2004-2007. We take into account the control of confounding, for both air pollution and socioeconomic factors at a contextual level and, in particular, we explicitly address the problem of misalignment. We employed a case-control design with individual data. We used deaths resulting from myocardial infarction, hypertension, or Type II diabetes mellitus in Barcelona between 2004 and 2007 as cases for the study, while for controls we used deaths (likewise in Barcelona and over the same period of time) resulting from AIDS or external causes (e.g. accidental falls, accidental poisoning by psychotropic drugs, drugs of abuse, suicide and self-harm, or injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents). The controls were matched with the cases by sex and age. We used the annual average equivalent A-weighted sound pressure levels for daytime (7-21h), evening-time (21-23h) and night-time (23-7h), and controlled for the following confounders: i) air pollutants (NO2, PM10 and benzene), ii) material deprivation (at a census tract level) and iii) land use and other spatial variables. We explicitly controlled for heterogeneity (uneven distribution of both response and environmental exposures within an area), spatial dependency (of the observations of the response variables), temporal trends (long-term behaviour of the response variables) and spatial misalignment (between response and environmental exposure locations). We used a fully Bayesian method, through the Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation (INLA). Specifically, we plugged the whole model for the exposure into the health model and obtained a linear predictor defined on the entire spatial domain. Separate analyses were carried out for men and for women. After adjusting for confounders, we found that traffic noise was associated with myocardial infarction mortality along with Type II diabetes mellitus in men (in both cases, odds ratios (OR) were around 1.02) and mortality from hypertension in women (ORs around 1.01). Nevertheless, only in the case of hypertension in women, does the association remain statistically significant for all age groups considered (all ages, ≥65 years and ≥75 years).
Keywords: Adverse health events; Air pollutants; Independent association; Misalignment; Traffic noise.
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