Problem of Noise Pollution
Noise pollution has become a serious problem for human health. The noisy atmosphere in which we are living is an obstacle in securing good health. Noise pollution and environmental noise are hurting human and other organisms. Noise beyond a limit produces many diseases, such as hypertension, stress, making people vulnerable to forgetfulness, depression, insomnia, and many other serious ailments. Noise is also very dangerous for nature as a whole because it disturbs the tranquillity of all creatures and increases mortality rate in them.
What is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution means an unwanted or undesirable sound that leads to physical and mental problems. Noise pollution is dependent on the loudness and frequency of the sound. In fact, when the sound exceeds its limit, it becomes fatal for human and other organisms. The noise intensity is measured in decibels or dB. A person can bear the noise up to 85 decibels, after which his hearing power can be damaged.
Normally, sounds more intense than 30 decibel are called noise. Anyway, all the sounds come under noise pollution which makes the mind turbulent or restless. In fact, any unwanted noise arising in the environment, which has adverse effects on the health of the organism, is noise pollution.
In daily life, we hear different intensity of sounds, whose level ranges from 10 to 100 decibels. Considering the side effects on human health, scientists have set the maximum sound limit, ranging from 75 to 85 dB in different countries. The World Health Organization considers the sound of 45 decibels ideal for cities. But measurement of sound in most big cities exceeds 90 decibels.
Sources/Causes of Noise Pollution
The sources of noise pollution are divided into two categories:
The natural environment is filled with various sounds – thunderstorms, lightning, tornado, cyclone, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, sounds produced by animals, and rapidly falling water.
Rapid industrialization, urbanization, use of modern means of transport, population growth, and increasing scale of human activities are some of the human factors responsible for noise pollution. Both types of noise pollution, affect sleep, listening ability, physical and mental health.
Vehicular Noise: The modern means of traffic including vehicles such as buses, trucks, scooters, cars, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, firecrackers, explosives etc, pollute the atmosphere. Sound of other automated vehicles and horn, excessive use of loudspeakers for religious purposes also generate jarring noise.
Industrial Noise: Industry-businesses, factories and commercial establishments produce a variety of raucous sounds that bump into our ears and disturb our mind. Noise pollution is an integral part of the industrial environment with heavy machines used in the industries; it is on the rise with the increase in industrial urbanization.
Commercialization of residential areas: Even in non-industrial areas, there is noise in the surrounding environment due to printing, dyeing machines, repairing cars, grinding etc.
Domestic Noise: As the houses in the cities are quite adjacent, the amount of domestic noise is increasing. The noise of radio, television, instrumentation and various types of sounds are constantly occurring around us, which cause mental health problems, stress, deafness etc. Other domestic sources include noise in the kitchen, and domestic discord including scolding, shouting, crying, etc.
Construction activities: Unbridled construction is also a reason for noise pollution outside the home. Sound pollution is also caused due to poor urban planning because industrial and residential buildings are quite close by in many cities.
Political Activities: Noise pollution is also generated by dharna, demonstrations, slogans, election propaganda, processions, and rallies frequently organized in cities.
Noisy Hospitals: Noise pollution also occurs in hospitals. Rocking of trolleys, wheelchairs, surgical instruments, oxygen cylinders, sounds from plants, uncontrolled conversations among patients, relatives, emergency noise and screams, mourning followed by death are some of the sources of noise pollution in medical centres.
Fireworks: Fireworks are another source of pollution. Uncontrolled fireworks in festivals, fairs, or crackers after victory in matches and elections produce unbearable noise.
Other Reasons: Noise pollution inside and outside the house includes car alarms, emergency services siren, machine tools, compressed air horn, equipment, electrical equipment, megaphone etc.
More on Causes of Noise Pollution…
Effects of Noise Pollution/Diseases Caused by Noise Pollution
- Noise pollution may cause temporary or permanent hearing impairment. The most direct harmful effect of excessive noise falls on the ears. Many times, extreme noise ruptures the ear drums.
- You cannot only be deaf but can also come in the grip of deadly illnesses like impotence and cancer, besides problems such as lack of memory, concentration, and interruption in speech, irritation, irritability, stress and depression.
- The noise not only creates irritability, anger, but also accelerates the heart rate by increasing blood flow in the arteries. The constant noise increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which contracts blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
- Health experts believe that rising noise gives rise to neurological disease, nervous breakdown, hypertension, vision, dizziness, excessive sweating, exhaustion
- As rapid noise hinders sleep, insomnia has adverse effects on human functioning. The person becomes irritable, angry, tired and tense, and he even becomes neurotic or crazy.
- Exposure to the noise of 180 decibels intensity may result in the death of man.
- Due to excessive noise, there is a decrease in the production of digestive juices.
- Noise pollution has a lot of adverse effect on infants and women, sometimes due to loud velocity of sound, women also undergo miscarriage or the foetus’s heart stops and the entire behaviour of the infant can change. Children imbibe forgetful tendencies.
- The effect of noise is dangerous for animal life too. Due to continuous noise, their habitat decreases and the threatened creatures reach the brink of extinction. The most notable of the deadly effects of noise pollution is that some species of whale die due to noise.
- Noise pollution has extremely harmful effects on other organisms and vegetation. Due to frequent noise, animals and birds leave their habitat and move away. Animals and birds migrate from the forest areas near the mining areas and high traffic roads. Due to acute sound waves, birds may even stop laying eggs.
- Because of excessive noise, many violent creatures cannot find their prey, while other creatures cannot survive being hunted.
- Many microbes are destroyed by acute sound, which inhibit decomposition of wastes.
- There are adverse effects of pollution on pets such as turbulence, and decrease in their milk content.
- Similarly, due to noise pollution, the growth of the vegetation is hindered; the fruits and flowers of the trees get withered and decayed.
- With excessive sound the walls of windows of the buildings are broken, the roofs rattle and get cracked.
- Due to blasts in the mining areas, or sound of jet aeroplanes sometimes high-rise buildings collapse or cracks develop in them, dams, bridges, etc.
- The sound effects of noise pollution caused by nuclear explosions spread through hundreds of kilometres so that biodiversity is threatened.
- Rocks, snowflakes and landslide incidents rise in snowy and mountainous areas.
- Because of the noise, many creatures also speak loudly, which is called Lombard Vocal Response. Their vocal intensity increases in the presence of noise. It occurs as a response to ambient noise.
- Due to excessive noise, there is a disruption in the studies of children too, as they do not get peaceful environment for study even in their homes.
More on Effects of Noise Pollution…
More on Diseases caused by Noise pollution…
Findings of a German Study on Noise Pollution
According to a recent study, traffic noise increases the risk of heart failure. Road, rail traffic noise, noise during air travel, have a profound effect on the person’s heart. Staying near the highway can prove to be harmful to your heart.
As part of this study, Andreas Seidler and his friends from Dresden University of Technology of Germany received and studied information from statutory health insurance companies for evaluation throughout Germany for several years.
In this case-control study of secondary data, these researchers found that those who lived in the Rhine-Main area, where the noise was very high, were much more likely to die due to heart attack.
When only such patients were studied in 2014 and 2015, who had died from heart attack, the researchers noticed deeper connection to the noise and heart attack. In this regard, Andreas Seidler and his colleagues believe that the effect of noise pollution is on most people’s ears and hearts. Even during air traffic, there should not be noise of more than 65 decibels; otherwise passengers may be in trouble.
There is also an indication from the people that traffic also has a profound effect on the health of the person. However, research has been done so far only about the noise and heart attack.
This study was conducted by NORAH (Noise-Related Annoyance, Cognition, and Health) which is spread through Europe.
Measures for Prevention/Control of Noise Pollution
- Considering the widespread ill-effects of noise pollution, measures need to be taken to control them.
- Increasing noise pollution is very harmful for the health, efficiency and productivity of animals, organisms, flora etc. as well as the adaptation and balance of the environment.
- It has become necessary to control it and also to make people aware of this.
- Factories, which mainly produce noise pollution, should be established far away from settlements, forests, reservoirs and hilly areas.
- Settlements should not be located at least within 20 kilometres from mining areas, and airports.
- Explosives should be not used in mountainous, forest and mining areas.
- With proper maintenance of vehicles, along with the restriction of high sound horns, the use of advanced technology silencer should be used inevitably.
- Use of horn in public places (hospital, teaching institutes etc.) should be banned.
- The sound of musical instruments should be controlled to desirable limits.
- The use of sound amplifiers of high power, DJ, etc should be banned in religious, social, political events.
- There should be control over noise generated from machine and equipment.
- The use of sound absorber acoustic tiles should be encouraged in the construction of multi-storeyed buildings.
- In industrial, commercial and hospital buildings, adequate soundproof systems should be installed.
- Intensive plantation should be made in the entire building complex.
- Planting green trees along the road side reduces the intensity of noise pollution.
- Dense tree cover is very useful in the prevention of noise pollution. Such trees help in absorbing high sound waves, as well as deflecting them into the atmosphere.
- Therefore, cities, highways, industrial settlements should be fully lined with the green belt of trees.
- Protective tools (ear plugs etc.) should be provided for workers.
- Limits should be set on noise and control over noise pollution by legal provisions.
- Adequate health education on pollution should be provided through government agencies and voluntary institutions.
More on How to Control Noise pollution…
Noise Pollution in India
According to a recent report of Central Pollution Control Board, the level of noise in Mumbai is highest in the country. Delhi is on the fourth number. However, Lucknow is at the second place with Hyderabad placed at the third slot in terms of noise pollution.
In its report, CPCB has said that Mumbai had the highest level of noise pollution during 2011-14. According to the report, due to greenery and number of roadside trees, noise pollution has been somewhat restrained in Delhi. But in the World Hearings Index, Delhi has become the world’s fifth largest noisiest city. In Delhi, ITO and Anand Vihar are the places which have recorded the worst noise. According to the recent statistics of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, noise was recorded up to 74 decibels between 12 to 2 pm at ITO, whereas in the afternoon, Anand Vihar area recorded the level of noise pollution at 60.4 decibels at noon and 41 decibels in the night.
Apart from the number of vehicles, noise pollution in the country can be attributed to the rising number of to vehicles, train, aircraft, generator sets, office machines, and construction activities.
In India, the noise of more than 75 decibels (up to one meter distance from the source of the sound) is illegal from 10 am to 6 am. Those convicted in violation of these rules, under Section 290 and 291 of the Indian Penal Code, can face a fine of one lakh rupees or a prison or up to five years, sentence may run simultaneously, under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
In this connection, the Division bench of the then Chief Justice RC Lahoti and Justice Ashok Bhan on 18th July, 2005 had issued directions under Section 141, 142 of the Constitution, regarding restrictions on vehicles, loud speakers and crackers etc. in residential areas from 10 am to 6 am, but till date there has been no effective implementation of the law.
Pollution is due to excessive sound is dangerous both for mental and physical health; it poses a threat for living organisms to exist on Earth. While the government and the courts of various countries are taking several measures to reduce the intensity of noise pollution, it calls for collective efforts and resolve on the part of mankind. If people themselves promote sound pollution, they will not be in a position to motivate others to use minimal sound. Let us fulfil our duties towards the Planet Earth by contributing towards environmental protection.
Moreover, there is a need for greater awareness on this issue as only 5 to 10 percent of the people affected by noise formally file a complaint. Many people are not aware of the information about their legal rights under the environmental laws in force in various countries. Clearly, there is a need to change things at the ground level to tackle the global menace of noise pollution.
More in Noise Pollution
Causes of Noise Pollution
Effects of Noise Pollution
Diseases caused by Noise pollution
How to Control Noise pollution
Essay on Noise Pollution
Slogans on Noise Pollution
Noise pollution isn’t always recognized as the major issue it is.
Some noisemakers such as highways, construction sites and airport runways are obvious, and steps such as erecting sounds barriers are taken as a matter of course. In the workplace, however, problems with noise can be less easily perceived. To make matters more complex, what might bother some people isn’t an issue for others.
A few facts are undisputed: that noise pollution is getting worse; it’s bad for our health; and that it’s very, very expensive.
- “Noise pollution grows faster than the human population,” writes TreeHugger editor Michael Graham Richard, “and in fact is more than doubling every 30 years.”
- Dr. Rick Neitzel of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health writes that “annual noise exposures that exceed an average of approximately 50 decibels (about as loud as a conversation in a quiet home) may result in increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
- “Businesses lose $600 billion a year in workplace distractions,” writes Global Workplace Analytics, a company whose research arm, the Telework Research Network, studies the impact that new ways of working has on people, the planet, and profits.
Noise is Expensive
To be distracting, noise doesn’t have to be caused by something as mind-shattering as a jackhammer next to your desk. It can simply be chatter between colleagues or muted traffic sounds outside your window.
In 2011, the World Health Organization in Europe put the cost of noise pollution for that continent at $30.8 billion a year. “They looked at the effect of environmental noise on health,” writes the team of Sound Fighter Systems, “including the ‘cost of lost work days, healthcare treatment, impaired learning and decreased productivity’ due to noise.”
Dr. Neitzel co-authored a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that found a 5-decibel noise reduction in noise would reap an annual economic benefit estimated at $3.9 billion just in the United States.
However, there’s long been a fundamental difference between how Europe and the US deal with noise noise. The first problem, according to Dr. Neitzel, who was quoted in an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, is the US information on noise exposure is dated by some 40 years. Furthermore, “in Europe they have requirements to map out and understand who’s exposed to noise and have requirements to do something about it. In the U.S. we just view it as a necessary byproduct of the technology we use.”
Noise Irritates, Deafens and Then Kills Us
There’s a laundry list of the effects of noise on people, ranging from distraction and loss of productivity in the workplace to increased blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, that same American Journal of Preventive Medicine study mentioned above notes that reducing noise levels by 5 decibels “would reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure by 1.4 percent and coronary heart disease by 1.8 percent.”
Hearing loss is a public health issue that affects 48 million Americans, which is one-fifth of the adult population in this country. “One of the leading culprits of hearing loss,” writes Mary Padron at Occupational Health & Safety, “is workplace noise pollution, which can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).” While this type of injury is usually limited to high-noise environments, such as factories and construction sites, it is a problem across every industry.
“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, industries that include mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and the military run the highest risk of NIHL noise pollution.”
Kim Myers at Lab Manager gives an example of how noise can become an issue in a laboratory setting, writing that approximately 35–40 percent of workers in office settings find noise levels above those of a normal conversation (50 decibels) irritating. If you have two lab instruments operating, each producing 52 decibels, the combined effect is 58 dB. Adding a third that runs at 58 decibels brings the overall noise level to 62.5 decibels.
In other words, you don’t have to be in a high-noise environment to experience problems with noise.
Problems with workplace noise are specific and common across the board.
When open-office employees have noise-related complaints, they relate almost evenly to hearing and to being heard. CityLab’s Eric Jaffe wrote in an article for Fast Co.Design about a study that “reported ‘sound privacy’ to be the greatest grievance by far among open-office workers, with general ‘noise level’ not far behind.”
He also pointed to other research that shows that twice as much time is wasted in open offices due to noise distraction as in private ones, linking office noise pollution to both worker dissatisfaction and loss of productivity.
The team at Paramount Interiors wrote about another survey, this one from the University of Sydney. It identified “that 30% of respondents found noise made by colleagues as the disruption that was hardest to deal with. However, 60% saw a lack of privacy and not being able to concentrate as a much bigger issue.”
It seems that age is not a factor when it comes to noise distraction; young people complain as much as older workers. In fact, the only difference noted by Paramount Interiors is that Gen Y workers are “twice as likely to use headphones to achieve privacy or concentration.”
In fact, certain types of background noise are particularly problematic. In a white paper on office noise distraction by Swedish acoustics company Ecophon, the team found that “intelligible speech has been found to be one of the most distracting forms of office noise.” If the background conversation “contains useful information (‘relevant speech’)”, it is perceived differently than irrelevant conversation, which is interpreted as annoying and distracting noise, which can lead to loss of performance and productivity.
But We Need to Talk—Some Of Us More Than Others
While silence is conducive to types of work that require high levels of concentration, architect Dr. Kerstin Sailer, a lecturer in Complex Buildings and member of the Space Syntax Laboratory at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, uses research to point out how much we need to talk in an article on Workplace Insight.
She writes that about 34 percent of people in workplaces are talking at any one time. There is a difference in the interaction rates based on industry, though, which adds both challenges and clarity to office design plans: “In software development, 46 percent of people interact at any one time on average, followed by 39 percent for both advertising agencies and the financial industry; law firms and media companies were the least chatty with 29 percent and 27 percent rates of interaction respectively.”
How to Fix Noise Issues
There are four steps you can take to fix noise problems in your workplace, or better yet, avoid them altogether, writes Buildings’ contributing editor, Jenna M. Aker.
- Plan for acoustics from the start — and don’t forget about the HVAC, “a major contributor to unwanted noise”. Simple steps include zoning for compatibility. In other words, “don’t stick the conference room next to the copy room.” By involving the acoustical team at the outset, you allow “the general contractor to layer in acoustical elements while installing walls and ceiling.”
- Pinpoint the exact cause for complaint. “It’s very easy to apply the wrong treatment to an acoustical problem. Many people think, for instance, that adding sound-absorptive treatments will solve a sound isolation problem.”
- Treat the problem correctly. If you have complaints of speech privacy, the acoustic ceiling panels for sound absorption may not be the best solution. Sound masking, on the other hand, might be the right fit.
- Confirm the results with the building occupants. “Facility managers should conduct a post-remediation survey…in the affected areas. This can bring the project to a successful close.”
Austrian office furniture manufacturer Bene writes that “intelligent acoustic space planning promotes satisfaction and efficiency,” with studies showing “up to a 52% performance improvement with good acoustics.” There are several factors that need to be considered when you’re looking to achieve acoustic ambiance. Ultimately, though, you want to make sure people can understand speech easily and at a volume that’s comfortable for everyone in the space.
The office interiors team at Urban Office recommend segregating office workspace into distinct spaces, based on use, to control noise. The breakdown is:
- the desk area, where demanding tasks are worked on;
- the meeting or training room space, where tasks can still be demanding;
- a third area, away from the first and second task-related spaces, where meeting and working is more informal.
If you’re dealing with an office that’s already built, the approach to effective noise control can still be simple and relatively inexpensive. “Adding a high-quality acoustic ceiling, or free hanging panels,” writes Ecophon, “alongside acoustic wall panels will are proven to immediately reduce reverberation and reduce noise.”
The Hearing Clinic recommends a number of specific steps to take when it comes to the noise-reduction strategies that can be implemented, which include:
- “Install noise-reducing machinery and protective shields around noisy areas.”
- “Work with engineers to reduce noise at its source.”
- “Create quiet workstations and break areas; then, require instituted break periods.”
- “Maintain machinery for peak efficiency (some noises come from inefficient mechanical operation).”
- “Plan workspaces that are secured properly (to reduce unnecessary vibration).”
Judi Hembrough, Director of Marketing Management for the Home & Home Office Business Unit at audio technology company Plantronics, writes that in addition to the use of noise-cancelling headsets, creating a quiet space where employees can make a call or conduct a meeting without distractions is something facilities managers and business owners alike can consider.
She gives the example how Spiceworks, an IT community, “created private call booths so that its sales and account reps who worked in a ‘classic sales pit’ had a quiet place to go when they were on a call.”
Using furniture, including acoustical dividers as well as wall and ceiling panels, to reduce noise is not difficult to implement and, like the private call booths, can in fact become prominent design features. Alexandra Miller and Terry Huang at Interior Architects point out that the physical environment of traditional call centers, for example, is changing and making use of these features.
“The trend towards collaborative and team-based work is spilling over into contact centers,” they write. “Businesses have discovered that, in many cases, by lowering workstation panels that permit more eye contact agents can share information and resources. This also creates an environment that supports learning. Similarly, managerial workspaces are becoming more open and accessible.”
When Interior Architects designed the GDIT contact center in London, Kentucky, Miller and Huang noted that “decorative felt wall panels were displayed as artwork while providing noise reduction at the same time.”
Plants as Sound Absorbers
Plants can be used to absorb sound, too. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Christopher Calisi and Justin Stout call plants a natural option to noise control in an open office environment. “Similar to planting trees along a loud highway, plants boast sound absorbing capabilities that can work just as effectively in an indoor environment as an outdoor setting. Furthermore, plants have other significant health benefits, including improving oxygen levels in an office.”
Industry journalist Angela Fedele writes at Sourceable that the reason plants are used to reduce noise pollution in the workplace is that they lessen reverberation time, and so are best placed in areas with hard surfaces, like those with concrete or marble floors and walls.
She adds that the rule of thumb for best noise reduction is “one plant for every 100 square feet,” and says that “further research ... has revealed that plants such as the Madagascan dragon tree, Kentia palms, peace lily and the weeping figs are the plants that work best as sound barriers.”
Another solution can be to introduce white noise, a background noise that masks unwanted sounds. While fans are often used to accomplish this effect and there are white noise machines on the market, Tamy Cozier at Metropolis writes that a covering strategy can be something as simple as turning on the radio.
“Tuning a portable desk radio to an AM sports talk channel at a low volume is an example of such noise masking, because the constant muttering of voices creates a barrier between one’s immediate area and the rest of the office. When used effectively, off-the-shelf sound generators or HVAC systems can obscure noises from both the inside and outside sources.”