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Year : 2002  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 16  |  Page : 13--21

Chronic cortisol increases in the first half of the night caused by road traffic noise

1 Institute for Water, Soil and Air Hygiene, Federal Environmental Agency, Berlin (retired), Germany
2 Klinikum Ernst von Bergmann, Potsdam, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Hartmut Ising
Rheinstr. 69, D 14612 Falkensee
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12537837

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56 children age 7 - 10 had a medical check-up and they and their mothers completed questionnaires. Additionally the children's excretion of free cortisol was measured by HPLC in two urine samples collected at 1 p.m. and in the morning. The children lived either at a busy road with 24 h lorry traffic or in quiet areas. At the side of the road the noise level was registered during five nights. In the bedrooms representative measurements of the short-term maximal sound level (L Amax and L Cmax ) and of the frequency spectrum were taken. During the night on average every 2 minutes a lorry with L max > 80 dB(A) passed by the houses. The indoor levels of the higher exposed half of the children were L max = 33-52 dB(A) resp. 55-78dB(C)). The frequency spectrum had its maximum below 100 Hz. 74% of the higher exposed never opened their windows as compared to 25% in the lower exposed half group. The excretion of free cortisol and its metabolites in the first half of the night was significantly correlated to L Cmax (co-variables: age, sex, and the day of the week) as well as to impaired sleep, memory and ability to concentrate. The cortisol excretion in the second half of the night was not correlated to the noise level. Disturbances of the normal circadian rhythm of cortisol can be quantified by the quotient of the cortisol excretion in the first half of the night in relation to that in the second half. Children under long-term road traffic noise exposure during the night had an increased risk of chronic stress hormone regulation disturbances. These disturbances were significantly correlated to L Cmax and findings of allergy and/or asthma bronchial. Long-term low frequency noise exposure with Lmax < 55 dB(A) during the night resulted in chronic increases of children's excretion of free cortisol in the first half of the night and in serious disturbances of the circadian rhythm of cortisol. Indications of increased risks of asthma bronchial and allergies in noise exposed children with stress hormone regulation disturbances need further clarification


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