Monday, 16 April 2012

Noise Pollution

Noise seems to be ever ubiquitous, inescapable, really.  In the great outdoors, we are assaulted by traffic noise, including those infuriating "boom cars" with their thudding bass, the sound of airplanes, construction, inconiderate noisy neighbours, yapping dogs, power tools, honking horns, and slamming car doors.  To name but a few.

Malls are among the most awful places.  Set aside the natural noises of the unwashed masses, and you're left with music blaring from stores.  Nearly all stores, all mingling in an incoherent bray of noise.
Even libraries, once havens of quiet are now dens of insanity, as I've written about before.  Even our homes betray us with furnaces and airconditioning switchin on and off, ditto the fridge, to say nothing of other kitchen appliances, the washing machine which sounds like a helicopter taking of when it is spinning and the clothes dryer.  And don't get me started on noise in the workplace.

Lest you think me just a complainer, please consider:
  • the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that noise adversely affects human health through sleep disturbance, cardiovascular impacts and impairs child development and cognitive functioning.  The WHO has also found work productivty losses from noise, learning impairment in children and hearing impairment;
  • the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has found that 42% of the population feels their private home life is adversely affected by noise;
  • the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls has produced a number of papers addressing health impacts of occupational and community noise.
Research in this area is currently not too abundant, but it is growing and there is a consensus is emerging that people face too much noise in their daily lives and that the health impacts and social conflict are growing as a result.  These impacts are expected to grow as population increases.  The question is what are the appropriate policy responses from all level of government?

Noise pollution does not seem to be a hot topic on anyone's policy agenda, despite a very high number of NGOs and community groups trying to raise its profile as an issue to be addressed.  Those of us who are sensitive to noise hope that meaningful policies are developed to curb the amount of community and occupational noise we are exposed to.

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