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Pollution, Noise

Pollution, Noise

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Noise pollution is undesired sound that is disruptive or dangerous and can cause harm to life, nature, and property. It is often said that noise differs from other forms of pollution in that, unlike atmospheric pollutants for example, once abated, noise leaves no residual accumulation in the environment or the human body. Noise does leave behind its effects, however, and these can deteriorate after continued exposure to harmful sounds. So it is not true, strictly speaking, that noise leaves no visible evidence (Lai 1996, p. 389).

The hazardous effects of noise depend on its intensity (loudness in decibels), duration, and frequency (high or low). High and low pitch is more damaging than middle frequencies, and white noise covering the entire frequency spectrum is less harmful than noise of a specific pitch. Noise may be ambient (constantly present in the background) or peak (shorter, louder sounds).

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in humans is the major, though by no means only, problem stemming from noise pollution. In 1978 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Noise Abatement and Control estimated that around twenty million Americans were exposed daily to noise resulting in permanent hearing loss (EPA 1978). In 1990 about thirty million people in the United States were exposed daily to occupational noise levels above 85 decibels, compared with just over 9 million people in 1981. Exposure for more than 8 hours a day to sound in excess of 85 decibels is potentially hazardous. In Germany and other developed countries, as many as four to five million people, that is, 12 to 15 percent of all employed people, are exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels or more (World Health Organization 2001).

Loud, abrupt sounds can harm the eardrum, while sustained sounds at lower volume can damage the middle ear; both types of sounds can cause psychological damage. Noise disrupts sleep and communication, and numerous studies have documented the heart-related, respiratory, neurological, and other physiological effects of noise. Stress, high blood pressure, anger and frustration, lower resistance to disease and infection, circulatory problems, ulcers, asthma, colitis, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, and many other physiological and psychological problems have been linked directly to noise. In addition, children have been shown to suffer from slower language development and disruption of learning as a result of noise. More than five million children in the United States, ages six to nineteen, suffer from noise-induced hearing impairment (Havas 2006). In the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Spain, exposure to noise impaired childrens reading comprehension and caused a delay in reading skills development (Clark and Stansfeld 2005). In Austria, children in noisier neighborhoods were shown to suffer from increased stress and diminished motivation (Evans et al. 2001). A fetus exposed to noise may experience a change in heart rate, or it may suffer the impact of its mothers noise-related stress.

In addition, noise can harm animals and the environment, as well as physical property. Livestock and pets are harmed by noise, as are animals in the wild. Noise can also disturb wildlife feeding and breeding. Noise-related property damage includes structural damage from vibrations induced by sound waves and economic harm in the form of lower property values. The true social costs of noise pollution also must include monetary losses from sickness, absenteeism, loss of productivity and earning capacity, and much more.

Noise pollution is not new, but it has become more problematic with the developments associated with industrialization and urbanization. Between 1987 and 1997, community noise levels in the United States were estimated to have increased by 11 percent and were predicted to continue increasing at that rate or more (Staples 1997). Commercial and industrial activities, construction, aircraft, vehicular traffic (highway and off-road), and the rapid increase in the use of machines and other technologies are all associated with noise pollution. Modern household appliances and lawn and gardening equipment are increasingly common sources of noise. Like many other forms of pollution, noise appears to disproportionately affect poor and disadvantaged minority communities, and so is also an environmental justice issue.

In the United States, public policy to address noise pollution began in the early 1970s. The Noise Control Act of 1972 charged the federal government with protecting public health and welfare from noise pollution by establishing standards for noise emissions and by authorizing federal agencies to establish rules. The EPA created the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) as a result of the Noise Control Act. The Quiet Communities Act of 1978 authorized the EPA to provide grants to state and local governments for noise abatement. In the early 1980s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set standards for industrial noise exposure and criteria for hearing protection. The OSHA guidelines resulted in a reduction of noise levels and hearing loss to workers, but some hearing loss can occur even at OSHA-approved levels. In 1981 Congress agreed to the Ronald Reagan administrations proposal to cease funding for ONAC, although Congress did not repeal the Noise Control Act when it eliminated ONACs funding.

Noise pollution can be controlled through reduction at the source, interruption of transmission paths, or protection of the receiver. Reengineering machines and simply turning down volume when possible are methods of reduction at the source. Barriers, enclosures, and other forms of soundproofing can interrupt transmission paths. The use of hearing protection is the main form of receiver protection. Experts recommend a multifaceted approach, including appropriate training on the use of equipment and on why ear protection matters, enforcement of hearing-protection regulations, and the use of new technologies that reduce noise at the source (Lusk et al. 2004). Like many other environmental problems, addressing noise pollution is complicated by issues of shared responsibility and jurisdiction, making some conventional economic approaches less effective and inviting new interdisciplinary solutions. New active noise control (ANC) technologies may assist in dealing with noise pollution in the years ahead through the use of digital processors that convert analog sounds into digital signals, allowing computer-generated antinoise to erase sound with sound (Alper 1991).

While market-based approaches to pollution control have become more popular in recent years, there have not yet been any emissions trading or pollution permits schemes applied to noise. It should be recalled, however, that up until the time of the first government regulation of pollution, a market-based approach was the default mode of pollution control.

SEE ALSO Pollution; Pollution, Air; Pollution, Water

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alper, Joe. 1991. Antinoise Creates the Sounds of Silence. Science 252 (5005): 508509.

Clark, Charlotte, and Stephen A. Stansfeld. 2005. The Effect of Aircraft and Road Traffic Noise on Childrens Reading. Literacy Today 44 (9): 2425.

Evans, Gary W., et al. 2001. Community Noise Exposure and Stress in Children. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 109 (3): 10231027.

Havas, Valerie. 2006. Noise! The Invisible Pollution. Current Health 2 32 (5): 1011.

Lai, Patrick. 1996. Noise Pollution. In Major Environmental Issues Facing the 21st Century, eds. Mary K. Theodore and Louis Theodore, 389396. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lusk, Sally, et al. 2004. Acute Effects of Noise on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate. Archives of Environmental Health 59 (8):392399.

Staples, Susan L. 1997. Public Policy and Environmental Noise:Modeling Exposure or Understanding Effects. American Journal of Public Health 87 (12): 20632067.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Noise Abatement and Control. 1978. Noise: A Health Problem. http://www.nonoise.org/library/epahlth/epahlth.htm.

World Health Organization. 2001. Fact Sheet No. 258. Geneva:WHO Press. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs258/en/.

Mathew Forstater

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Noise Pollution

Noise Pollution


Noise pollution is the intrusion of unwanted, uncontrollable, and unpredictable sounds, not necessarily loud, into the lives of individuals of reasonable sensitivities. Using the "reasonable person" standard removes the notion that the judgment of sounds as unwanted is subjective. Unwanted sounds or noises can be traced back to Old Testament stories of very loud music and barking dogs as well as to ancient Rome where city residents complained about noisy delivery wagons on their cobblestone streets. The Industrial Revolution, the growth of cities, and the demand for transportation made the world even noisier. With the modern world so dependent on and enchanted with noise-producing and noise-related technologyautomobiles, aircraft, helicopters, motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis, leaf blowers, amplified music, bass-driven car stereo systemsthe ambient noise level is rapidly accelerating. This growth in noise has led to research examining the impact of noise on the lives and activities of reasonable people. The result has been a body of evidence that strongly suggests noise is hazardous to good mental and physical health.

To understand noise, one must know something about sound and how loudness is measured. Sound that travels through the air in waves has two major properties: the frequency or speed at which the waves vibrate and the intensity of each vibration. It is the intensity, or how many molecules are packed together with each vibration, that for the most part produces the sense of loudness, although frequency also contributes to the determination of loudness, with higher-pitched sounds sounding louder. Loudness is measured by a decibel scale (expressed as dB), but to reflect human hearing more accurately a modified version of this scale, known as the A scale, has been developed. On the A scale, loudness is measured in dBAs. The scale increases logarithmically so that an increase of 10 dB indicates a doubling of loudness, and an increase of 20 dB represents a sound that is four times louder. Whispers measure 20 dBA, normal conversation 50 to 60 dBA, shouting 85 dBA, and loud music over 120 dBA. Continuous exposure to sounds over 85 dBA may cause permanent hearing loss.

Exposure to very loud sounds that are enjoyable, and not technically noise to the listener, can lead to hearing impairment. Because many people, especially young children and teenagers, are not aware of the dangers of very loud sounds to their hearing, they should be warned that playing computer games with loud audio attachments, setting headsets at consistently high volume, or regularly playing ball in a loud gymnasium may affect their hearing over time. A survey of hearing threshold shifts among youngsters between the ages of six and nineteen found that one out of eight of them suffered a noise-related hearing problem. Children attending loud movies and sporting events, or visiting video arcades may be unwittingly exposing themselves to dangerously loud sounds. Teenagers are especially vulnerable as they are more likely to equip their cars with high-powered "boom boxes," attend loud dance clubs, and work in noisy fast-food restaurants.

Sounds need not be very loud to be deemed intrusivefor example, the drip of a faucet, an overhead jet, or a neighbor's stereo late at night. Noises are especially bothersome at night when one is trying to sleep, and a good night's sleep is vital to good health. Exposure to bothersome noises over time can be stressful, resulting in adverse health effects, such as hypertension. Although more research is needed to solidify a noise and health link, there is agreement that noise lessens the quality of life. Noises can be especially harmful to children. Scientific research indicates that noisy homes slow down cognitive and language development in young children. In addition, children living and attending schools near noisy highways, railroads, and airports have lower reading scores, and some children living or attending a school near a major airport have experienced elevated blood pressure.

In 1972 the U.S. government passed legislation recognizing the growing danger of noise pollution. It empowered the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curtail noise levels, but by 1982, during the Reagan administration, the office lost most of its funding. States and cities were no longer supported in their efforts to abate noise, and ONAC no longer published materials educating people on the dangers of noise. Recently, the federal government has passed legislation to lessen noise in national parks, for example, banning snowmobiles, but states and cities are on their own in controlling noise, with some cities more successful than others. Traffic noise, especially aircraft noise, is the major source of annoyance calling for better federal regulation within the United States. In contrast, the European Union is finalizing a noise directive that will require member states to produce noise maps and develop action plans to reduce noise levels.

Noise from snowmobiles, jet skis, and supersonic jets has also intruded on the environment, affecting animals' abilities to communicate, protect their young, and mate. Worldwide, antinoise groups believe their governments are doing too little to lessen the surrounding din, and groups from the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Asia have joined together to educate both the public and governments about the long-term dangers of noise pollution, urging them to lower the decibel level. A quieter, healthier environment is within our grasp.


Bibliography

bronzaft, a.l. (1998). "a voice to end the government's silence on noise." hearing rehabilitation quarterly 23:612, 29.

bronzaft, a.l., and dobrow, s.b. (1988). "noise and health: a warning to adolescents." children's environments quarterly 5:4045.

chen, a.c., and charuk, k. (2001). "speech interference levels at airport noise impacted schools." sound & vibration 35(7):2631.

evans, g.w., and lapore, s.j. (1993). "nonauditory effects of noise on children. a critical review." children's environments 10:3151.

federal interagency committee on aviation noise (fican). (2000). fican position on research into effects of aircraft noise on classroom learning. washington, d.c.

niskar, a.s.; kiezak, s.m.; holmes, a.; esteban, e.; rubin, c.; and brody, d.j. (2001). "estimated prevalence of noise induced hearing threshold shifts among children 6 to 19 years of age. the third health and nutrition examination survey. 19881994." pediatrics 108:4043.

stansfeld, s.; haines, m.; and brown, b. (2000). "noise and health in the urban environment." reviews of environmental health 15:4382.


internet resources

league for the hard of hearing web site. available from http://www.lhh.org/noise.

noise pollution clearinghouse web site. available from http://www.nonoise.org.

Arline L. Bronzaft

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Noise Pollution

NOISE POLLUTION

NOISE POLLUTION generally refers to unwanted sound produced by human activities—unwanted in that it interferes with communication, work, rest, recreation, or sleep. Unlike other forms of pollution, such as air, water, and hazardous materials, noise does not remain long in the environment. However, while its effects are immediate in terms of annoyance, they are cumulative in terms of temporary or permanent hearing loss. Society has attempted to regulate noise since the early days of the Romans, who by decree prohibited the movement of chariots in the streets at night. In the United States, communities since colonial days have enacted ordinances against excessive noise, primarily in response to complaints from residents. It was not until the late 1960s, however, that the federal government officially recognized noise as a pollutant and began to support noise research and regulation. Federal laws against noise pollution included the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, especially sections concerning environmental impact statements; the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act of 1970; and the Noise Control Act of 1972, which appointed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate federal research and activities in noise control.

Charged with developing federal noise-emission standards, identifying major sources of noise, and determining appropriate noise levels that would not infringe on public health and welfare, the EPA produced its so-called Levels Document, now the standard reference in the field of environmental noise assessment. In the document, the EPA established an equivalent sound level (Leq) and a day–night equivalent level (Ldn) as measures and descriptors for noise exposure. Soon thereafter, most federal agencies adopted either the Leq, Ldn, or both, including levels compatible with different land uses. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses Ldn as the noise descriptor in assessing land-use compatibility with various levels of aircraft noise. In 1978 the research findings of Theodore J. Schultz provided support for Ldn as the descriptor for environmental noise. Analyzing social surveys, Schultz found a correlation between Ldn and people who were highly annoyed by noise in their neighborhoods. The Schultz curve, expressing this correlation, became a basis for noise standards.

As part of its effort to identify major noise sources in the United States, the EPA set about determining the degree to which noise standards could contribute to noise reduction. During the 1970s, EPA-sponsored research on major noise sources led to regulation of the products that most affected the public, including medium and heavy trucks, portable air compressors, garbage trucks, buses, and motorcycles. Missing from the list was aircraft, which was considered the responsibility of the FAA. During the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the power of the EPA and its Office of Noise Abatement and Control was curtailed and most of its noise regulations rescinded. Even so, efforts continued to curb noise pollution. The Department of Transportation maintains standards for highways, mass transit, and railroads, as well as aircraft. The environmental review process, mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, remains the single most effective deterrent to noise pollution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kryter, Karl D. The Handbook of Hearing and the Effects of Noise: Physiology, Psychology, and Public Health. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1994.

Saenz, A. Lara, and R. W. B. Stephens, eds. Noise Pollution: Effects and Control. New York: Wiley, 1986.

Schultz, Theodore J. "Synthesis of Social Surveys on Noise Annoyance, " Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 64 (August 1978): 377–405.

Carl E.Hanson/w. p.

See alsoEnvironmental Movement ; Environmental Protection Agency ; Epidemics and Public Health .

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noise pollution

noise pollution, human-created noise harmful to health or welfare. Transportation vehicles are the worst offenders, with aircraft, railroad stock, trucks, buses, automobiles, and motorcycles all producing excessive noise. Construction equipment, e.g., jackhammers and bulldozers, also produce substantial noise pollution.

Noise intensity is measured in decibel units. The decibel scale is logarithmic; each 10-decibel increase represents a tenfold increase in noise intensity. Human perception of loudness also conforms to a logarithmic scale; a 10-decibel increase is perceived as roughly a doubling of loudness. Thus, 30 decibels is 10 times more intense than 20 decibels and sounds twice as loud; 40 decibels is 100 times more intense than 20 and sounds 4 times as loud; 80 decibels is 1 million times more intense than 20 and sounds 64 times as loud. Distance diminishes the effective decibel level reaching the ear. Thus, moderate auto traffic at a distance of 100 ft (30 m) rates about 50 decibels. To a driver with a car window open or a pedestrian on the sidewalk, the same traffic rates about 70 decibels; that is, it sounds 4 times louder. At a distance of 2,000 ft (600 m), the noise of a jet takeoff reaches about 110 decibels—approximately the same as an automobile horn only 3 ft (1 m) away.

Subjected to 45 decibels of noise, the average person cannot sleep. At 120 decibels the ear registers pain, but hearing damage begins at a much lower level, about 85 decibels. The duration of the exposure is also important. There is evidence that among young Americans hearing sensitivity is decreasing year by year because of exposure to noise, including excessively amplified music. Apart from hearing loss, such noise can cause lack of sleep, irritability, heartburn, indigestion, ulcers, high blood pressure, and possibly heart disease. One burst of noise, as from a passing truck, is known to alter endocrine, neurological, and cardiovascular functions in many individuals; prolonged or frequent exposure to such noise tends to make the physiological disturbances chronic. In addition, noise-induced stress creates severe tension in daily living and contributes to mental illness.

Noise is recognized as a controllable pollutant that can yield to abatement technology. In the United States the Noise Control Act of 1972 empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to determine the limits of noise required to protect public health and welfare; to set noise emission standards for major sources of noise in the environment, including transportation equipment and facilities, construction equipment, and electrical machinery; and to recommend regulations for controlling aircraft noise and sonic booms. Also in the 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began to try to reduce workplace noise. Funding for these efforts and similar local efforts was severely cut in the early 1980s, and enforcement became negligible.

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pollution

pollution Contamination of the natural environment, generally by industrialized society. Modern industrial and agricultural methods have polluted the Earth's air, land and water mainly through manufactured toxic chemicals (such as pesticides and fertilizers) or the over-production of naturally occurring chemicals (such as carbon dioxide). Pesticides, such as ddt, build up in the environment and can enter the food chain. The excessive use of nitrate fertilizers leaches the soil and causes water pollution through concentrated run-off. The sulphur compounds produced by burning fossil fuels causes acid rain. Carbon dioxide emissions from traffic exhausts contribute to the greenhouse effect. The use of chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs) in aerosol propellants depletes the ozone layer. A continuing problem is the storage of nuclear waste. Pollution can also result from major disasters, such as Chernobyl, Bhopal, or huge oil spillages from damaged tankers. Other forms of contamination include noise pollution. See also conservation; ecology; eutrophication

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noise pollution

noise pol·lu·tion • n. harmful or annoying levels of noise, as from airplanes, industry, etc.

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