Dubai by night


© Inaki Relanzon / Nature Picture Library


The United Nations estimate that some 4.1 billion human beings lived in cities in 2017, representing 55% of the earth's population. While life in megalopolises is often associated with the idea of economic well-being and rational and technological development, it also leads to social exclusion and has deleterious effects on human health.
One of the factors impacting the well-being of city dwellers is noise pollution; invisible, odourless sound waves whose damage is often underestimated. However, the World Health Organization believes that noise pollution should be considered a danger to public health. Vehicular traffic is one of the major sources of the non-auditory effects of noise pollution, which include changes to our circadian rhythms (i.e., rhythmic variation of our biological activities over 24 hours), increased blood pressure, and greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The pathogenetic mechanisms are not yet fully understood, and great weight is also attributed to other factors. It is often difficult to assess the impact of individual factors that combine, such as air pollution and the fact that the poorest among us live near areas with high traffic and have less access to healthcare systems. The massive changes that megacities have brought to the Earth and its ecosystems is reflected in individuals’ lives in far more complex and invasive ways than we generally think.

Marco Casarotto