Evidence for a Dose-Response Relationship between Occupational Noise and Blood Pressure

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ABSTRACT.In this study, we investigated the role of occupational noise exposure and blood pressure among workers at 2 plants. A noise-exposed plant (plant 1, ≥ 89 dBA) and a less-noise-exposed plant (plant 2, ≤ 83 dBA) were chosen. Exposure was based on department-wide average noise measures; on the basis of job location and adjusting for layoffs during their employment at the plant, a cumulative time-weighted average noise level was calculated for each worker. The study population comprised 329 males in plant 1 and 314 males in plant 2. Their ages ranged from 40 to 63 y (mean ages = 49.6 and 48.7, respectively), and they had worked at least 15 y at the plant. The clinical examination was administered prior to the workday and measured height, weight, pulse, and blood pressure. In addition, we noted medical and personal-habits histories, including alcohol intake and cigarette smoking patterns. We used a questionnaire to determine in-depth occupation, military history, noisy hobbies, and family history of hypertension. When individuals who took blood-pressure medication were removed from the analysis, t tests for differences in average blood pressure between plants showed a mean systolic blood pressure of 123.3 mm Hg in plant 1 versus 120.8 mm Hg in plant 2 (p = .06) and a mean diastolic blood pressure of 80.3 mm Hg versus 77.8 mm Hg in Plant 1 and 2, respectively (p = .014). On the basis of data from the combined plants, multivariate analysis revealed that age, body mass index, cumulative noise exposure, current use of blood pressure. Cumulative noise exposure was a significant predictor of diastolic blood pressure in plant 1 but not in plant 2, possibly reflecting a threshold effect.

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