Dutch Study Links Noise to Lowered Immunity

The body's immune response is affected in distinctly different ways by the two widely- recognized determinants of the stress response: the controllability or uncontrollability of the stressor, and the mental effort required to cope with the stress.

In a study conducted at the University of Utrecht, male students were required to perform mathematical and other tasks under continuous noise. Half of the students could control the intensity of the noise coming through their earphones, the others could not. Some of the tasks in the uncontrollable condition were rigged to guarantee failure.

"An uncontrollable stressor that lasts 15 minutes can have consequences for health because it may interfere with cytokine interleukin-6 function, which plays an essential role in activating the immune defense," said the head of the study.

Uncontrollable stressors also produce high levels of cortisol, which suppresses immune system functioning and may have a prolonged detrimental effect for health, the researchers reported.

The results of the study appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine, the journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. For information, contact Joel Dimsdale at 619-543-5468.

Environmentalists: Friends or ...?

We thought that environmentalists would be our natural allies in the protection of the soundscape, which is after all an integral part of the environ-ment. Sadly, we have experienced on several occasions their distinct lack of concern about noise. In June of this year we wrote to over twenty environmental protection organizations, explaining our concerns and urging them to follow the outstanding example of the Sierra Club by adopting a noise policy of their own. To date we have not received one single reply or even an acknowledgement of our letter. We do not want to jump to conclusions or make unfair judgements, but this lack of response could lead us to believe that we are dealing with adversaries, instead of allies. It's rather disappointing.

-- Hans Schmid

Right to Quiet, Fall 1999

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