Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise, is the propagation of noise with harmful impact on the activity of human or animal life. The source of outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines, transport and transportation systems. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas. Research suggests that noise pollution is the highest in low-income and racial minority neighborhoods. Documented problems associated with urban environment noise go back as far as ancient Rome.
High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.
Main article: Health effects from noise
Noise pollution affects both health and behavior. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological and physiological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.
Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleep or conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one's quality of life.Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by outside (e.g. trains) or inside (e.g. music) noise.
Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss. Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate more significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79. A comparison of Maaban tribesmen, who were insignificantly exposed to transportation or industrial noise, to a typical U.S. population showed that chronic exposure to moderately high levels of environmental noise contributes to hearing loss.
High noise levels can result in cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight-hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress, and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure noted above, as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery disease.
Less addressed is how humans adapt to noise subjectively. Indeed, tolerance for noise is frequently independent of decibel levels. However, Murray Schafer's soundscape research was groundbreaking in this regard. In his eponymous work, he makes compelling arguments about how humans relate to noise on a subjective level, and how such subjectivity is conditioned by culture. He also notes that sound is an expression of power, and as such, material culture (e.g., fast cars or Harley Davidson motorcycles with aftermarket pipes) tend to have louder engines not only for safety reasons, but for expressions of power by dominating the soundscape with a particular sound. Other key research in this area can be seen in Fong's comparative analysis of soundscape differences between Bangkok, Thailand and Los Angeles, California, US. Fong's research methodology was modeled after Schafer, and the research findings show how not only do soundscapes differ, but they also rather explicitly point to the level of urban development in the area; that is, cities in the periphery – in Immanuel Wallerstein-speak – will have different soundscapes than that of cities in the core. Fong's important findings tie not only soundscape appreciation to our subjective views of sound, but also demonstrates how different sounds of the soundscape are indicative of class differences in urban environments.
Noise can have a detrimental effect on wild animals, increasing the risk of death by changing the delicate balance in predator or prey detection and avoidance, and interfering the use of the sounds in communication, especially in relation to reproduction and in navigation. Acoustic overexposure can lead to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.
An impact of noise on wild animal life is the reduction of usable habitat that noisy areas may cause, which in the case of endangered species may be part of the path to extinction. Noise pollution may have caused the death of certain species of whales that beached themselves after being exposed to the loud sound of military sonar. (see also Marine mammals and sonar)
Noise also makes species communicate more loudly, which is called Lombard vocal response. Scientists and researchers have conducted experiments that show whales' song length is longer when submarine-detectors are on. If creatures do not "speak" loudly enough, their voice will be masked by anthropogenic sounds. These unheard voices might be warnings, finding of prey, or preparations of net-bubbling. When one species begins speaking more loudly, it will mask other species' voice, causing the whole ecosystem eventually to speak more loudly.
Marine invertebrates, such as crabs (Carcinus maenas), have also been shown to be negatively affected by ship noise. Larger crabs were noted to be negatively affected more by the sounds than smaller crabs. Repeated exposure to the sounds did lead to acclimatization.
European robins living in urban environments are more likely to sing at night in places with high levels of noise pollution during the day, suggesting that they sing at night because it is quieter, and their message can propagate through the environment more clearly. The same study showed that daytime noise was a stronger predictor of nocturnal singing than night-time light pollution, to which the phenomenon often is attributed. Anthropogenic noise reduced the species richness of birds found in Neoptropical urban parks.
Zebra finches become less faithful to their partners when exposed to traffic noise. This could alter a population's evolutionary trajectory by selecting traits, sapping resources normally devoted to other activities and thus leading to profound genetic and evolutionary consequences.
Main article: Noise control
Noise from roadways and other urban factors can be mitigated by urban planning and better design of roads. Roadway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise, that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations, and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.
Aircraft noise can be reduced by using quieter jet engines. Altering flight paths and time of day runway has benefitted residents near airports.
Industrial noise has been addressed since the 1930s via redesign of industrial equipment, shock mounted assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace. In recent years, Buy Quiet programs and initiatives have arisen in an effort to combat occupational noise exposures. These programs promote the purchase of quieter tools and equipment and encourage manufacturers to design quieter equipment. The US National Institute for Occupational Health has created a database of industrial equipment with decibel levels noted.
Main article: Noise regulation
Up until the 1970s governments tended to view noise as a "nuisance" rather than an environmental problem.
Many conflicts over noise pollution are handled by negotiation between the emitter and the receiver. Escalation procedures vary by country, and may include action in conjunction with local authorities, in particular the police.
Noise pollution is a major problem in India. The government of India has rules & regulations against firecrackers and loudspeakers, but enforcement is extremely lax.Awaaz Foundation is an Indian NGO working to control noise pollution from various sources through advocacy, public interest litigation, awareness, and educational campaigns since 2003. Despite increased enforcement and stringency of laws now being practised in urban areas, rural areas are still affected.
Figures compiled by rockwool, the mineral woolinsulation manufacturer, based on responses from local authorities to a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request reveal in the period April 2008 – 2009 UK councils received 315,838 complaints about noise pollution from private residences. This resulted in environmental health officers across the UK serving 8,069 noise abatement notices or citations under the terms of the Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act. In the last 12 months, 524 confiscations of equipment have been authorized involving the removal of powerful speakers, stereos and televisions. Westminster City Council has received more complaints per head of population than any other district in the UK with 9,814 grievances about noise, which equates to 42.32 complaints per thousand residents. Eight of the top 10 councils ranked by complaints per 1,000 residents are located in London.
There are federal standards for highway and aircraft noise; states and local governments typically have very specific statutes on building codes, urban planning, and roadway development.
Noise laws and ordinances vary widely among municipalities and indeed do not even exist in some cities. An ordinance may contain a general prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance, or it may set out specific guidelines for the level of noise allowable at certain times of the day and for certain activities.
The Environmental Protection Agency retains authority to investigate and study noise and its effect, disseminate information to the public regarding noise pollution and its adverse health effects, respond to inquiries on matters related to noise, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations for protecting the public health and welfare, pursuant to the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978.
New York City instituted the first comprehensive noise code in 1985. The Portland Noise Code includes potential fines of up to $5000 per infraction and is the basis for other major U.S. and Canadian city noise ordinances.
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Heat, light, electricity, water and sound, besides a number of things are provided by nature. If the five agents of nature are under control they are rather beneficial to an individual, a society or a nation. If they are in excess and go beyond the control of man or are misused by man they pollute the environment and affect the personal and social health.
Excess of heat (measured in units of temperature) may decompose anything. To take a simple example the burning of coal in mills and factories the chimnies belch carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and a number of other gases that pollute the atmosphere. Even the un-burnt gas released in a heating process pollutes the environment.
A combination of heat and light that emnates from the sun creates radio activity if the ozone layer grows thin. Electricity generated in the clouds may fall in the shape of lightening burning forests creating pollution. Pollution through dirty water is a common aspect.
That sound (or noise) too pollutes the environment may look funny to many. But it does. It may be some times imperceptible but no less harmful. Noise is directly related to man both in creation and experience. City roads are as much pestered with noise from automobiles, bands, mikes and the down towns with quarrelling men and women and the elite areas with strange associations like the share market that is worst even than the vegetable market as the areas on the banks of rivers with polluted water.
The worse preys of noise pollution are the big cities like New York, London, and Shanghai that have perfect air connection with other cities. A flight a minute disturbs the whole city. Equally infested by noise are the areas by the side of a busy railway track.
That noise too is a serious pollutant is a recent research. It is based on how sound (or noise) affects human ear. It may affect even animals. Before the advent of automobiles horse carriages carried men and material. The driver won't hit the horse. He will move the hunter in air creating sound that jarred the ears of the horse that gave a jerk to let the horse gain speed—exploiting the animal through noise pollution. The excessive pitch of the noise created by the trumpeting of an elephant or the roaring of a I ion pollutes the whole atmosphere of the jungle. So does the cries of an unruly husband in a house or a residential area. It is the ear that tells whether a particular noise pollutes the environment or not. Ear and sound (or noise) has a direct relationship.
The ear has three parts—the outer, the middle and the inner ear. The auricle i.e. the outer ear collects the sound stimuli. They pass through a canal, widest at the middle ear outer wall i.e. the ear drum. The tympanic membrane of the ear drum receives the sound vibrations from the outer ear. The hammer, the anvil and the stirrup are three minute pieces of bone that transmit the vibrations to the inner ear. The inner ear has two organs—one for hearing and the other for balance. Cochlea the hearing organ is a snail 5-aped container. It transmits sound vibrations as nerve impulses to the brain. The brain initiates the whole system of the body. In a way it guides the different organs to respond to the sound in different ways.
The brain activates the pituitary glands. These glands activate the thyroid and adrenal glands to excrete hormones. As it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system it indirectly influences the heart, the stomach, the pupil, blood vessels and motor nerves that control muscle reactions. Such reactions decide the response of our body to sound. Some sounds are jarring or unpleasant to the ear while some are pleasant. The unpleasant sounds create discomfort and affect the nerves. These unpleasant impacts are collectively called as noise pollution.
Almost all the cities and towns come under noise pollution. In big cities like New York, London, Kolkata and Delhi the noisy traffic is the biggest menace. In cities like New York and the capitals of European countries the noise pollution comes from the sky too because of the high frequency of aeroplanes. Some lower level noises like barking dogs and fighting animals during night hours are also pollutants as they disturb sleep. They can be detrimental to health in the long run. The high pitch sounds affect the ear drum and those who have to hear these constantly are more prone to losing their hearing capacity early as they ascend the age ladder. Some people do more work in noisy environment. But they invite great trouble for the future. The constant exposure to noise deteriorates the tender parts of the mid ear. It, in the long run fails to transmit sound impulses to the inner ear. The result is inefficient responses to sound.
Sound is produced by the vibrations of an object and is transmitted in the form of waves. Sound has two important properties—frequency and intensity (loudness). Frequency means pitch. It is measured in Hertz (Hz) units and is determined by the number of times the vibrating waves fluctuate in a second. The pitch is higher if the fluctuation is more. The loudness is measured in decibels (db). A decibel is one-tenth of a bell. It is the physical unit based on the weakest sound that can be caught or detected by human ear. 'bel' is after the name of Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone.
The scale of decibel is logarithmic i.e. an increase of 1Odb means 10 times increase. But if the increase is 20 db it means 100 times. Thus 30 db would mean a 1000 times increase. A whisper is about 10 db A decent conversation is around 20 db while a normal talk is 30 db To decide a noise pollution we may start with a loud conversation which is 60 db The playing children have a noise scale of 60 to 80 db While the traffic noise may go to 90 db Heavy truck traffic reaches 100 db while a motorcycle reaches 105.
Beat Music amplified electrically reaches 120 db While an aircraft—a jet take off touches 120 db a jet engine (at 25 m. distance) is generally not less than 140 db But the highest and the most harmful is the space vehicle launch noise that reaches 170 db
Looks strange but is equally true that the human ear cannot hear sounds having frequencies higher than 20,000 Hz (20,000 vibrations per second). It explains why one can't hear the extraordinary high pitch sound created by a flying bat which is 20,000 to 1, 00,000 Hz. The sound is at ultrasonic levels. The ultrasonic waves are a tool of research and are useful in the sub-marine echo sounding and in detection of flows in casting, drilling glasses and other processes. As such it is hard to say if they pollute the environment as they do not affect the hearing process.
The speed at which sound travels can of course some times go on polluting the area it covers. Sound can travel in certain media at different speed with which it travels in air. It is 331 meters per second in air at sea level. In water 4965 in per second, in glass it is 6000 in per second while in iron or steel it is generally 15000 m per second. In granite, ice cold water, bricks and even in wood its speed is greater than in air. This explains how sound pollutes sea water through sub-marine and also how noise can pollute the mines and closed buildings too.
But the most experienced pollution through speed is in the air media. That is how the thundering clouds deafen people when the thunder reaches the earth. The railway trains too leave their mark of sound all the way they travel. But the most injurious is the sound of aeroplanes that travels to the earth passage over which they fly. When they start travelling with a speed more than 331m per second they cross, the sound barrier making a quake like vibration in the atmosphere.
Supersonic speed is about 1216 km per hour. It is measured in Mach (after the name of Ernst Mach, a German Scientist who worked it out). Now Mach is the ratio of the speed of flight to the speed of sound. At the speed of sound it is Mach 1, at half it is 0.5, at twice the speed it is mach 2 and so on. Since the modern fast aeroplanes cross the speed barrier they pollute the area all the way when they fly low on cities. As the speed of the plane is more than that of sound the sound remains behind and those in the planes are not affected by it.
Any way noise pollution has been increasing in different ways with the growth of urbanization. Besides taking the environmental pollution, water pollution, nuclear pollution and the depletion of ozone layer seriously the world will have to develop a culture—sophistication in life to remove or lessen noise pollution too or half the world will be partly or totally deaf in decades to come.