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Atmospheric pollution is not the only threat to living beings on our planet. Noise pollution is another threat that we need to be concerned about. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise pollution is now one of the most dangerous environmental threats to public health. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has stated that almost 16,600 premature deaths and more than 72,000 hospitalizations occur every year in Europe alone due to noise pollution. So, what can we do about it? And how do we save ourselves and our environment?
What is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution is loud, unwanted, and excessive sound that causes harmful effects on human health and the environment. Different types of noise pollution are usually produced inside various industrial facilities and workplaces. It is also generated from highways, airplanes, railway traffic, and outdoor building and construction activities.
Car noise pollution is a leading type of noise pollution. Noise pollution can cause various health problems for wildlife and humans, both in the sea and on land. From rock concerts to traffic noise, loud or unpreventable sounds can cause stress, hearing loss, and high blood pressure. Noise from ships and human activities in the seas and oceans are harmful to dolphins and whales that depend on echoes for survival.
Sources and Causes of Noise Pollution
There are multiple causes and sources for noise pollution. Some of the most common causes are:
Many industries use huge machines that are capable of generating a significant amount of noise. Other than these machines, different equipment, such as generators, compressors, grinding mills, and exhaust fans, also create a lot of noise. You are probably aware of how workers and staff of such industries and factories wear earplugs to reduce noise. However, exposure to noise pollution for extended periods of time may eventually damage their hearing even after taking such precautionary measures.
2. Poor Urban Planning
Inadequate and insufficient urban planning in most developing countries is the main reason for noise pollution. Large families sharing small spaces, packed houses, fights over basic amenities, such as parking and traffic jams, lead to noise pollution and the disruption of the social environment. In urban settings, noise pollution may be caused when industrial buildings and residential properties are nearby. In situations such as these, noise from industrial properties may endanger the well-being of the nearby residents. Noise does not just affect the sleep and hours of rest but also has harmful effects on the development and well-being of children.
3. Social Events
Noise pollution is at its peak during social events. It could be a marriage celebration, a party, a pub, a discotheque, a place of worship, and so on – people have no regard and consideration for rules and create a nuisance. At the outset, this may not seem too much; however, over time, the noise generated causes adverse effects on the hearing abilities of individuals.
A vast number of automobiles on roads, underground trains, and airplanes flying over residential areas generate a lot of noise. These loud volumes may lead to a situation wherein an individual may not hear properly.
5. Construction Activities
Construction activities, such as the construction of bridges, buildings, dams, flyover stations, roads stations, and roads, occur in almost every part of the world. These activities happen every day as we require more bridges, buildings, and amenities to accommodate more people. However, while this helps us to a certain extent, in the long run, the noise from such construction activities endangers the hearing abilities of individuals who are exposed to this type of sound constantly.
6. Household Chores
We all are surrounded by gadgets and depend on them extensively in our day-to-day life. Devices such as TVs, mobiles, pressure cookers, mixer grinders, vacuum cleaners, dryers, washing machines, coolers, and air conditioners contribute significantly to the amount of noise generated. As a result, it affects the quality of environmental life.
7. Air Traffic
While we may find it difficult to believe, air traffic also contributes to vast levels of noise pollution. Noise from one aircraft can produce sounds of up to 130 dB. So you can only imagine the quantity of noise produced by the various aircraft traveling in our airspace.
8. Catering, Nightlife, and Animal Sound
As we know, Nightlife and parties contribute to a lot of pollution; however, we cannot ignore the sounds made by animals – specifically by a barking or a howling dog. These sounds produce around 60-80 dB of noise.
How Many Decibels Is Considered As Noise Pollution?
The loudness of a sound is measured in Decibels (dB). Normal conversation is about 60 dB, the sound of a lawnmower is around 90 dB, and the sound of a loud rock concert is about 120 dB. Generally, sounds above 85 dB are considered dangerous and harmful to the ears, depending on how long and how frequently you are exposed to those sounds and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs.
Harmful Effects of Noise Pollution
1. Hearing Problems
Our ears can only take in a certain amount of sound without getting damage. Noise above safe levels can cause hearing impairments.
2. Psychological Issues
Extreme noise pollution in working areas, such as construction sites, offices, bars, and houses, can damage psychological health.
3. Physical Problems
Noise pollution can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, respiratory agitation, racing pulse, etc. Extreme exposure to loud sounds can also lead to gastritis, colitis, and heart attacks.
4. Cognitive Issues and Behavioral Changes
Noise affects brain responses and an individual’s ability to focus, leading to low-performance levels in the long run.
5. Sleeping Disorders
High noise levels can also impact an individual’s sleeping pattern, leading to uncomfortable situations and irritation.
6. Cardiovascular Issues
Noise pollution adversely affects an individual’s blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular diseases and stress-related heart problems.
7. Effect on Wildlife
Noise pollution affects wildlife much more than humans, as wildlife is primarily dependent on sound. A better sense of hearing is developed in animals since their survival depends on sounds.
8. Effects on Species Depending on Mating Call
Due to excessive noise levels, various species depend on mating calls for reproduction purposes and cannot hear these calls.
How to Reduce Noise Pollution?
Following are a few recommendations for the control of noise pollution:
- Turn off Appliances at Home and offices
- Shut the Door when using noisy Machines
- Use Ear Plugs
- Lower the Volume
- Stay away from noisy areas.
- Follow the limits of the noise level.
- Go green by planting trees since trees are good noise absorbents. Thus, we all should focus more on planting trees.
- Create a healthy noise to eradicate unwanted noise.
- Install noise absorbents in noisy machinery.
- Alert the authorities with regards to disobedience of noise rules.
Major Precautions for Avoiding Noise Pollution
These simple steps can assist in decreasing your exposure to harmful and annoying noises:
- Boost insulation in your home. Consider replacing ill-fitting doors and windows with less noisy ones. Soft furnishings, such as draperies and carpets, can help muffle sound too.
- Search for “noise-free” and “quiet” products. Various products are designed to be noise-free and quiet these days. Websites and spec sheets for a few dishwashers also comprise decibel-level claims.
- Track noise and sound by using an app. Various smartphone apps provide meters to detect the decibel of different sounds to give you an idea of what you are exposed to. Be sure to adjust the app before you use it to measure the accuracy.
The evidence regarding the dangerous effects of noise pollution seems to be growing. However, what can be done about it? We cannot shut down industries, pubs, discotheques, stop flying planes, stop driving cars, and so on. We require solutions from all sectors; governments have to be active in passing legislatures, restricting or limiting types and periods of noise. Besides that, the rest of us can take little steps to decrease our noise output.