How Does Noise Pollution Impact Sustainability?

How Does Noise Pollution Impact Sustainability?

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Since the Industrial Revolution, urbanization has slowly destroyed ecosystems and natural biodiversity. Today, large cities are major sources of various types of pollution. Noise pollution is often overlooked but is becoming harmful to humans and the environment. It results from the continuous sounds of human activities in urban areas. The World Health Organization defines noise pollution as any noise above 65 dB during the day. Noise pollution becomes harmful at levels exceeding 75 dB and painful above 120 dB. Additionally, noise levels over 30 dB at night can impact sleep quality (Iberdrola, n.d.). This article will discuss the causes and impacts of noise pollution on humans and the environment.

Causes of Noise Pollution

There are various sources of noise pollution in major cities, mostly arising from human activities. Road traffic is the largest contributor. For example, a car horn produces 90 dB, and a bus produces 100 dB (Iberdrola, n.d.). Constant road traffic, often due to poor road systems, can cause long-term harmful effects. It can lead to detrimental health impacts in humans, such as hearing loss. Additionally, noise pollution contributes to the destruction of biodiversity.

Furthermore, air traffic is another important factor. Although there are fewer aircraft in cities than vehicles, they have a greater impact. For example, a single plane flying over a city can produce up to 130 dB (Iberdrola, n.d.). Thus, areas near airports are susceptible to noise pollution. Other vehicles, such as trains and ships, are less common. However, areas near railways and waterways can also be significantly affected by consistent noise.

Industrial activities are also a major contributor to noise pollution. This can include manufacturing facilities, construction sites, power plants, and many more. Construction sites are very prominent, ranging from building construction, to park construction, and road pavement. All these activities often involve lots of machinery and equipment, which can cause disturbances if used constantly. For example, a pneumatic drill can produce 110 dB, exceeding the World Health Organization’s painful threshold (Iberdrola, n.d.). These types of noises can be intermittent or continuous and may vary in intensity depending on the production activities and types of machinery used. Long-term exposure to these noise levels can be considered harmful noise pollution.

Although often overlooked, recreational and commercial activities can also contribute to noise pollution. Recreational pursuits such as sporting events, motorized water sports, and off-road vehicle use can produce loud and disruptive noise. Activities can occur in both indoor and outdoor settings, and prolonged exposure can disrupt nearby residents, wildlife, and natural environments. Commercial buildings and activities are also prominent in cities and major urban nightlife areas, such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues. Terraces that lead outdoors from these buildings can produce over 100 dB, often consisting of loud music, patron conversations, and other late-night activities (Iberdrola, n.d.). Such noise on a nightly basis can disturb nearby residents and compromise their sleep quality.

On the other hand, a minor contributor to noise pollution are daily household appliances needed for everyday use. This includes air conditioners, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and many more. While individually they may not produce significant noise levels, collectively they contribute to ambient noise in residential areas. These activities tend to cause minor disruption rather than harmful effects.

Impacts of Noise Pollution

Noise pollution has several harmful effects on humans, impacting millions of people on a daily basis. Long term exposure to noise pollution can result in various health issues, most commonly Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). It can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, stress, and impaired cognitive function. These harmful effects can impact all ages, but tend to be more detrimental to children. Children that live near loud areas due to traffic conditions or airports have been found to suffer from stress as well as impairments in memory, attention level, and reading skill (National Geographic, n.d.). These health impacts not only negatively impact human well-being, but they also strain healthcare systems and diminish productivity.

Noise pollution also disrupts natural habitats and ecosystems, impacting the behaviour, communication, and reproduction patterns of animals. This disturbance occurs in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which can lead to population declines or shifts in species composition, which impacts overall biodiversity and ecological balance. On land, many animals use natural sounds for various purposes such as navigation, finding food, attracting mates, and avoiding predators (National Geographic, n.d.). However, noise pollution makes it difficult to rely on sounds and prevents them from accomplishing these tasks, negatively impacting their ability to survive.

On the other hand, ships, oil drills, sonar devices, seismic tests in water have significantly increased the noise levels in marine environments. Sonar devices are especially loud, which send pulses down ocean depths that can be up to 235 dB and travel hundreds of miles underwater. This has significantly impacted marine mammals such as dolphins and whales, who rely on echolocation to communicate, navigate, find food, and attract mates (National Geographic, n.d.). The presence of excess noise and chaos hinders their ability to effectively echolocate.

Noise pollution can also cause economical disadvantages. The presence of prolonged excessive noise, such as road traffic, air traffic, or construction sites can lead to decreased property values in affected areas. Subsequently, since noise pollution is linked with deteriorating human well-being, it results in increased healthcare costs due to related health issues. Noise pollution in popular tourist areas can also result in decreased tourism revenue. Additionally, noise-related disputes may arise between individuals, business, and local authorities, resulting in legal expenses and administrative burdens to resolve excessive noise issues.

Finally, noise pollution can also impact sustainable development, which aims to balance environmental, social, and economic factors for present and future generations. Noise pollution undermines this balance by significantly impacting environmental quality. This then compromises public health and well-being and impedes economic activities, as mentioned in the article above. Addressing noise pollution is essential in order to achieve sustainable development goals. It is also necessary to search for alternatives in order to reduce the impact of noise pollution on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to preserve biodiversity.

References

Noise Pollution: How to reduce the impact of an invisible threat? (n.d.). Iberdrola. Retrieved May 13, 2024, from https://www.iberdrola.com/sustainability/what-is-noise-pollution-causes-effects-solutions#:~:text=Not%20all%20sound%20is%20considered,is%20painful%20above%20120%20dB

Noise Pollution. (n.d.). National Geographic. Retrieved May 14, 2024, from https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/noise-pollution/

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