Noise Pollution 

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You may be familiar with water and air pollution, but have you heard about noise pollution? Believe it or not, noise pollution can be just as harmful. With urban culture spreading and the human population continuing to grow exponentially, this type of pollution is becoming more and more of an issue. Let’s take a look at noise pollution and what you can do to protect yourself.

What Is Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution is defined as any kind of noise that affects the health and well-being of humans and other organisms (National Geographic, 2023). The noise could come from loud concerts, traffic, airplanes, and so much more (National Geographic, 2023). In order to be considered harmful, the sound needs to reach over 85 decibels (National Geographic, 2023). For context, the rustling of a leaf is between 20 to 30 decibels, a lawn mower is around 90, and trains can range from 90 to 115 (National Geographic, 2023). According to the WHO, approximately 1 million healthy years of life are lost annually due to traffic-related noise alone in Western Europe (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). 

How Does It Harm You?

The most common way noise harms us is by causing noise-induced hearing loss (EPA, 2023). However, noise can also cause high blood pressure, sleep disruption, stress-related illnesses, and speech interference (EPA, 2023). In fact, many children living near noisy areas were found to suffer from stress and other mental impairments, such as memory problems, attention deficits, and lower reading skills (National Geographic, 2023). 

How Does It Harm Animals?

Noise can be very harmful to wildlife as well. Many species use noise to navigate, find food, attract mates, and avoid predators (National Geographic, 2023). Dolphins use echolocation, which is only effective if no other noise interferes (National Geographic, 2023). For other species, like bluebirds, loud noises may impact their ability to have offspring (National Geographic, 2023). Anthropogenic noise is the name given to any noise that reduces reproductive success, increases mortality and emigration, and lowers population densities (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). This noise can make it harder for wildlife to rely on their sensory percepts, leading to impaired cognitive processes and poorer decisions (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). 

Noise Pollution and Climate Change

Now, you may be wondering how noise has anything to do with climate change. Well, a lot of sources of greenhouse gases are huge contributors to noise pollution. Cars, for example, put out lots of carbon dioxide and make lots of noise. It was even shown that areas with more noise can be expected to have higher rates of global warming (Abdulgafar, 2021). Urban sprawl and deforestation remove natural carbon sinks from the environment that also act as sound barriers (Dutchen, 2022). Even technology implemented to help people deal with the effects of climate change can contribute to noise pollution, such as air conditioners and generators (Dutchen, 2022). 

What To Do? 

Lucky for us, noise is entirely reversible and leaves no lingering effects, unlike chemicals and other pollutants (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). In terms of improved urban planning, measures can be set to decrease noise in certain areas such as in school zones to improve children’s cognitive abilities (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). Countries should also set noise footprint targets to hold themselves accountable (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). 

Individual lifestyle changes are also actionable.

  • Move bedrooms to the quieter side of the house to help minimize sleep disturbances (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023).
  • Make low noise a priority when buying cars, air conditioners, etc (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023).
  • Seek out quiet places on holidays instead of heading to the city (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023).
  • Spread awareness about the adverse effects of noise pollution to others (The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, 2023). 
  • Wear earplugs or earmuffs if you must be around loud sounds (EPA, 2023). 

References 

Abdulgafar, T. (2021). Noise Pollution & Global Warming? [What Science Says]. Krisp. Retrieved Aug 9, 2023, from: https://krisp.ai/blog/effects-of-noise-pollution-globalwarming/#:~:text=How%20Effects%20of%20Noise%20pollution,as%202000%20vehicles%20per%20hour.

Dutchen, S. (2022). Noise and Health. Harvard medicine. Retrieved Aug 9, 2023, from:https://magazine.hms.harvard.edu/articles/noise-and-health#:~:text=Many%20contributors%20to%20global%20warming,while%20removing%20natural%20sound%20buffers.

EPA. (2023). Clean Air Act Title IV – Noise Pollution. EPA. Retrieved Aug 9, 2023, from: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-title-iv-noise-pollution#:~:text=Noise%20pollution%20adversely%20affects%20the,sleep%20disruption%2C%20and%20lost%20productivity.

National Geographic. (2023). Noise Pollution. National Geographic. Retrieved Aug 9, 2023, from: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/noise-pollution/

The Lancet Regional Health-Europe. (2023). Noise pollution: more attention is needed. Lancet Reg Health Eur. Retrieved Aug 9, 2023, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9832265/

About Post Author

Elizabeth Wang

Elizabeth Wang is a Health Sciences student working as a Research Assistant for EnvironFocus Inc. She hopes to share her perspectives and is always ready to learn more from others.
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