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Social inequalities in residential exposure to road traffic noise: An environmental justice analysis based on the RECORD Cohort Study
  1. Sabrina Havard1,2,
  2. Brian J Reich3,
  3. Kathy Bean4,
  4. Basile Chaix1,2
  1. 1Inserm U707, Research Unit in Epidemiology, Information Systems, and Modelling, Paris, France
  2. 2Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris6, UMR-S 707, Paris, France
  3. 3Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Centre d'Investigations Préventives et Cliniques, Paris, France
  1. Correspondence to Sabrina Havard, Inserm U707, Faculté de Médecine Saint-Antoine, 27 rue Chaligny, 75012, Paris, France; havard{at}


Objectives To explore social inequalities in residential exposure to road traffic noise in an urban area.

Methods Environmental injustice in road traffic noise exposure was investigated in Paris, France, using the RECORD Cohort Study (n=2130) and modelled noise data. Associations were assessed by estimating noise exposure within the local area around participants' residence, considering various socioeconomic variables defined at both individual and neighbourhood level, and comparing different regression models attempting or not to control for spatial autocorrelation in noise levels.

Results After individual-level adjustment, participants' noise exposure increased with neighbourhood educational level and dwelling value but also with proportion of non-French citizens, suggesting seemingly contradictory findings. However, when country of citizenship was defined according to its human development level, noise exposure in fact increased and decreased with the proportions of citizens from advantaged and disadvantaged countries, respectively. These findings were consistent with those reported for the other socioeconomic characteristics, suggesting higher road traffic noise exposure in advantaged neighbourhoods. Substantial collinearity between neighbourhood explanatory variables and spatial random effects caused identifiability problems that prevented successful control for spatial autocorrelation.

Conclusions Contrary to previous literature, this study shows that people living in advantaged neighbourhoods were more exposed to road traffic noise in their residential environment than their deprived counterparts. This case study demonstrates the need to systematically perform sensitivity analyses with multiple socioeconomic characteristics to avoid incorrect inferences about an environmental injustice situation and the complexity of effectively controlling for spatial autocorrelation when fixed and random components of the model are correlated.

  • Environmental exposure
  • noise transportation
  • residence characteristics
  • socioeconomic factors
  • epidemiology
  • bayesian statistics
  • race and ethnicity issues
  • environment
  • noise

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  • Funding Sabrina Havard is supported by a postdoctoral grant from the Health, Environment and Toxicology Ile-de-France Research Network (DIM SEnt) (Health, Environment and Toxicology Program 2008 CP-08-1062). As part of the RECORD project, the present work was also funded by the National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) (Health–Environment Program 2005 #00153 05), the Institute for Public Health Research (Institut de Recherche en Santé Publique), the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (Institut National de Prévention et d'Education pour la Santé) (Prevention Program 2007 074/07-DAS), the National Institute of Public Health Surveillance (Institut de Veille Sanitaire) (Territory and Health Program), the French Ministries of Research and Health (Epidemiologic Cohorts Grant 2008), the National Health Insurance Office for Salaried Workers (Caisse Nationale d'Assurance Maladie des Travailleurs Salariés), the Ile-de-France Health and Social Affairs Regional Direction (Direction Régionale des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales d'Île-de-France), the Ile-de-France Public Health Regional Group (Groupement Régional de Santé Publique), the City of Paris (Ville de Paris) and the Ile-de-France Youth and Sports Regional Direction (Direction Régionale de la Jeunesse et des Sports).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the French Data Protection Authority.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.