The Salt Lake Valley Health Department is making some changes to the current noise regulations that will address the health concerns of noise within the community, and its effects on Salt lake residents. The health department, after all, is responsible for the public’s well-being, and noise pollution is not good for anyone’s well-being.
The Salt Lake community already has some pretty impressive noise ordinances in place, but the Health Department has a hard time enforcing them since measuring noise has become trickier over the years with the advancement of technology.
Current noise regulations call for an analysis of sound readings taken during a one-second period of time, which is highly subjective. Some of the proposed amendments to Salt Lake’s current regulations will provide a time-weighted average of the impact a sound might be having. Restrictions will stay in place for garbage collection, construction work, fireworks and explosives, as well as for loading and unloading operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. But instead of issuing tickets for violations, the department plans to utilize technology to analyze the source of noise and to determine what kind of an impact it is having on human health.
Noise from a loud party at your next door neighbor’s will have a different effect on long term well-being than, say, noise from an ongoing construction site; Health Department officials plan to address different sources and qualities of noise to determine the appropriate action to take, the goal being to approach noise issues scientifically to preserve residents’ health and to protect the region’s nighttime quiet, which Eric Peterson, enforcement coordinator for the department's Division of Environmental Health considers a natural resource.
"We have a resource here, and that resource is a fair amount of quiet during the nighttime hours,” Peterson says. “That is not the case in many other cities and we're trying our best to preserve it.”
The list of adverse health effects of noise is growing longer, as studies are becoming more sophisticated and more comprehensive. In addition to hearing loss and tinnitus, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, sleep problems, concentration and learning impairment, are some conditions that can either be caused by or made worse by noise.
Ongoing low frequency sound, which can come from any one or more of a variety of sources including amplified music, pumps, fans, boilers, ventilation plants, foundries, blasting/quarrying, roads, rail and air traffic and electrical installations (to name just a handful) can also cause joint damage and, as new studies suggest, even hair loss.
"We're trying to fall back to a more measurable, objective standard that applies across the country," Peterson said.
The Community Noise Pollution Control Regulation moderates sounds commonly found within residential, commercial and industrial areas.
The Salt Lake Health Department’s approach to noise pollution should be considered a promising step in the largely ignored domain of noise pollution regulation. Peterson says that it is the Health Department’s job to investigate if any harm is being done, and when it comes to noise pollution, the studies are quickly adding up to one conclusion: noise pollution is unhealthy and needs to be addressed.
While the Health Department will not be able to enforce noise regulations dealing with interstate highways, air space, railroads or military installations, it can make a dent in the everyday noise that adversely affect area residents.
"There aren't too many circumstances where we deal with people being exposed to really dangerous levels of noise," Peterson said. "For the most part, we're trying to preserve the level of quiet that we have so that as the city expands and the valley grows, we don't create new sources of harmful noise."
Always looking for fresh input on noise issues, I came across an excellent article on a website called "Noise-Off."
First, let me remind readers that worldwide, more people are disturbed by noise in their day-to-day lives than by any other pollutant on Earth, and yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the effect our noise has on others, the effect others' noise has on us, and what noise pollution is doing to our health and (sometimes) sanity.
I liked the "Noise-off" article specifically because it addresses noise responsibility - what, exactly, do we owe our neighbors when it comes to peace and quiet? Is this an ethical issue, or a legal issue? Maybe both.
Here is an excerpt:
You have the right to the peace and enjoyment of your own home.
Most municipalities view noise complaints as a quality of life issue, but for people exposed to noise on a constant basis, it is a form of assault. They feel they are the only one suffering and often feel helpless and trapped in their own homes and apartments.
People who create or allow noise to intrude on a neighbor are indifferent to the rights of others. It is a form of passive aggressive behavior. Where children and teenagers are involved, parents need to set clear examples of appropriate behavior. Businesses are responsible for their environmental impact on the community.
In any conflict between two parties, there is usually a hidden third party that is behind the turmoil. Noise disputes between neighbors are often caused by boom cars, car alarms, and loud exhaust systems. The prevalence of these technologies has turned neighbor against neighbor, whereby the companies that produce these products quietly profit and assume no liability.
Noise ordinances and enforcement vary greatly from one community to another. Until there is a nationwide warranty of habitability that covers noise, residents will have to rely on what local protections are available. Obtain a written copy of the noise ordinance in your area and learn how the police handles noise complaints.
Attend neighborhood community meetings to learn if other residents are also experiencing noise problems. Identify officials who support your cause. You can create alliances to establish a group to present noise issues.
Social and economic factors influence the quality of protections available to its residents. A legislative body driven by economic interests may prefer to protect local businesses instead of residents.
Political influence typically mandates the initiatives for law enforcement to focus on. Those mandates are usually based on community demand and media interest. Some police departments do not always seek to reduce crime in as much to manage crime. They may release statistical metrics to show enforcement activity with regard to noise related quality of life complaints, but that does not necessarily correlate to any actual reduction in noise.
Some types of noise complaints are handled by different government agencies other than the police. Other agencies may include the Department of Environmental Protection, Animal Control (SPCA), Department of Housing, Department of Transportation and the Board of Health.
One of the biggest sources of neighbor complaints is barking dogs. The real problem is the negligent owner who is indifferent to the welfare of their dog. Some owners will even cast their pet outside all night and assume it can act as an effective guard dog.
Some breeds are more likely to bark more than others, such as Shelties and Collies. However, all dogs can learn to reduce barking when it is properly trained and socialized.
Affected owners and neighbors can install electronic devices that use a specially designed microphone and speaker that picks up a dog's bark and then sends out a corrective tone to keep the dog from barking. As a final resort, dog owners opt for a controversial veterinary procedure called debarking, in which the dog's vocal cords are permanently severed. We do not advocate this procedure.
Neighbors will sometimes adopt farm animals or wild animals in urban or suburban environments, creating tremendous noise for neighbors who live nearby. In most cases, it is in violation of the law and the SPCA or animal control can intervene.
This raises an excellent conversation when it comes to how best to combat the noise that is chiseling away at our quality of life. Do you have any noise issues, with neighbors, or at work? Tell us about them.
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