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Noise Pollution a Problem in Black Urban Neighborhoods

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TUESDAY, July 25, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Noise pollution levels are highest in black neighborhoods in segregated cities in the United States, a new study shows.

Researchers looked at 13 years of information gathered from across the United States. They found as percentages of Asian, black or Hispanic residents rose, so did noise levels during both day and night.

Neighborhoods with at least 75 percent black residents had median night-time noise levels 4 decibels higher than neighborhoods with no black residents.

The study also found that neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and low levels of education had high levels of noise.

"We've known that poor communities and communities of color are likely more exposed to toxic landfills and air pollution, but until now we really have not heard much about noise pollution," said study author Joan Casey. She's a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and made her comments in a university news release.

"The consistent disparities in noise pollution across domains in our study surprised us," she added.

"This is yet another study that shows that communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution," said study co-author Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study also found that white people living in more segregated cities were exposed to more noise than white people living in less segregated cities.

In more segregated cities, traffic is a major source of noise, the study found.

"In more segregated cities, you see racial disparities regardless of the segregation level of the city," Morello-Frosch said.

"But what you also see is that cities that are more segregated have higher noise levels overall for everybody," she said.

"I think that the innovative piece about this work is that we also show that social inequality, or segregation, makes things worse for everybody," she said.

The study was published July 25 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on noise pollution.

SOURCE: University of California, Berkeley, news release, July 25, 2017
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