Sound that is undesirable for human hearing is called as noise. When there is a lot of noise in the environment, it constitutes what is known as noise pollution. Noise pollution can be caused due to various sources – there is street noise, traffic noise, noise in public transport places, noise in playgrounds and parks, noise in the shopping malls, noise in workplaces… the list is endless. One of the greatest sources of noise pollution is the airports, and anyone staying close to an airport will attest to that.
Sources of Noise Pollution
Sound is measured in a unit known as decibel. Though there is no fixed particular decibel limit to decide when sound becomes noise, it is understood that a continuously high decibel limit will constitute noise pollution. Some areas do designate their own sound limits, which of course vary from one legislation to another. In the United States, most states have a sound limit of 65 dB in the daytime and 55 dB in the nighttime, applicable to the streets. Anyone crossing this limit would be causing noise pollution.
However, all these designated sound limits are too ambiguous, because most appliances we use in factories as well in the household go much beyond the prescribed limits. The following are some of the sources of noise pollution that we are quite familiar with, but generally ignore:-
* Appliances in the home such as mixer grinders, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, etc. together cause a cumulative sound of about 87 dB. This itself is above the sound limits in most areas. On top of that, if loudspeakers, television sets and music systems are used with high volumes, then we can well imagine how much noise pollution is being created.
* Small factories using single unit machines would cause a sound of about 98 dB and above. The sound will definitely go higher as the number of machines increase.
* Airplanes cause the highest sound among all – 150 dB. But road vehicles are also great contributors of noise pollution. These vehicles include the trucks, buses, tractors, SUVs and even motorcycles and most cars.
* Then there are lots of environmental sources of noise pollution that cannot be ignored. Continuous noises are the most distressing. Noise coming from sources such as dripping taps and ticking of clocks can contribute to environmental noise pollution.
Effects of Noise Pollution on Health
Noise pollution can take a severe toll on human health in the long run. These effects will not become apparent immediately, but there could be repercussions later on. The following is a list of the kinds of effects noise pollution will have on human health after continuous exposure for months, and even years:-
* The most immediate effect is a deterioration of mental health. As an example, people who are living too close to airports will probably be quite jumpy. Continuous noise can create panic episodes in a person and can even increase frustration levels. Also, noise pollution is a big deterrent in focusing the mind to a particular task. Over time, the mind may just lose its capacity to concentrate on things.
* Another immediate effect of noise pollution is a deterioration of the ability to hear things clearly. Even on a short-term basis, noise pollution can cause temporary deafness. But if the noise pollution continues for a long period of time, there’s a danger that the person might go stone deaf.
* Noise pollution also takes a toll on the heart. It is observed that the rate at which heart pumps blood increases when there is a constant stimulus of noise pollution. This could lead to side-effects like elevated heartbeat frequencies, palpitations, breathlessness and the like, which may even culminate into seizures.
* Noise pollution can cause dilation in the pupils of the eye, which could interfere in ocular health in the later stages of life.
* Noise pollution is known to increase digestive spasms. This could be the precursor of chronic gastrointestinal problems.
Controlling Noise Pollution
Governments are making their efforts for controlling noise pollution, but we must appreciate the difficulty of the task. Unless and until we take care of ourselves, the problems of noise pollution will always loom large. Here are some ways in which we can make individual efforts at reducing noise pollution for ourselves and for others:-
* We must constantly check up on the appliances we use at home. Most of them have rubber insulation that act for sound proofing. But over time, this insulation may wear out, and that is when the noise pollution will begin. Keep track of which appliances need maintenance, and replace insulation if needed.
* Growing trees is a very significant way in which roadside noise can be curtailed. Trees act as buffers for absorbing the sound that is produced on the streets and hence reduce noise pollution. That is the reason why roads with trees on both sides seem to be more silent and peaceful. Grow trees around your house if you can. It will protect you from the noise on the streets. This will also help if you stay close to an airport.
* Do not honk horns in your vehicles unless it is absolutely necessary. We all know how easily traffic sound limits are trespassed when there is a traffic jam. We might be desperate to get through, but honking horns will not solve any issues. It will only add to the noise pollution.
* If you are working in a factory that has a lot of noise issues, make it a point to wear earplugs and muffs. If you are the owner of the factory, provide these things to your workers.
(Excerpted from an article by By Neil Valentine D’Silva)