Acoustiblok Soundproofing Blog Articles

Fracking: A Controversial and Noisy Energy Process: Part 1 of 2

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Dec 18, 2013 3:01:00 PM

Fracking Blog Series DUOTONE Header This is a three part blog about the issue of high volume hydraulic fracturing, known to many as "hydrofracking" or "fracking," and noise issues that surround it.  

PART I:  The Controversy

According to the Wall Stree Journal, more than 15 million Americans now live within one mile of a fracking well. America is in the midst of an energy boom. It's expected to continue for decades and natural gas is expected to replace coal as the largest source of U.S. electricity by 2035, the Department of Energy forecasts. This energy bonanza is largely due to the combined use of horizontal drilling and fracking.

New oil and gas wells have turned millions of people into the petroleum industry’s neighbors.While many welcome the oil and gas companies who come bearing checks for temporarily leasing their land, others do not. Many people think the operation is noisy, disruptive and risky to human health and the environment despite the financial benefits.

Fracking History

Fracking technology has existed since 1947, but it mushroomed in the late 1980s when companies began to combine it with horizontal drilling to magnify productivity. In the last 15 years, a frenzy of drilling has taken place in the Western states – involving tens of thousands of individual wells (for example, 30,000 in the State of Colorado alone). This has spread into the Midwest and other areas as well. Millions of acres of land have been leased in 32 states by companies that are eager to get in on the “gas bonanza.” There are more than 500,000 active natural gas wells in the U.S. Fracking is also being done in other countries such as Germany, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and others.

Fracking Process 

fracking how it works 2 D drawingTo get natural gas or oil through hydraulic fracturing, companies:

-  Clear a well site, drill a bore hole, and drive a drill bit thousands of feet through the earth to reach layers of shale rock. 

-  Once they reach the strata of shale rock, they rotate the drill bit by 90 degrees and bore a horizontal cavity laterally through the shale seam to access a longer stretch of the deposit— from 1,000 feet to more than 10,000 feet. 

-  From the well head, they insert explosive charges down the bore hole and into the horizontal opening, and then set them off to perforate the well pipe and burst fissures in the rock. 

-  The drillers then pump millions of gallons of highly pressurized water, sand, ceramic beads, and chemical slurry into the hole to expand the fissures and hold them open. 

  -  As natural gas or oil begins to flow upward to the wellhead on the surface, the sand and beads prevent the fissures from closing. 

  -  Wastewater and drilling fluids that rise to the surface with the gas or oil are stored in ponds or tanks, or trucked away in heavy tank trucks.

The Issues For and Against

The following are some often used views from opponents and proponents about fracking:

Detractors Say:

Supporters and Industry Say:

  • Non-stop truck, heavy machinery, and compressor station noise.
  • The noise is non-stop, 24-hours a day, 7 days per week for about a month.
  • There's more the companies can do to reduce the noise.
  • The wells are often located close to neighborhoods and schools.
  • The chemicals used hurt the environment and are a danger to human health.
  • The drilling is causing earthquakes and making the earth's rock core unstable.
  • The chemicals they use can cause cancer.
  • The process contaminates the local potable water supply. Some people's water can be lit on fire even.
  • Kills animals and disrupts their local habitat. 
  • The process "rapes" the earth, is an invasive process.
  • It degrades the environment.
  • The noise is temporary for one month per well. More steps are being taken to mitigate noise at well sites.
  • The well sites are temporary and not permanent.
  • It's a safe process. The process has been made safer over the decades of doing it.
  • It gives America a chance to be energy self-sufficient for the next 118 years 
  • People don't have "correct" and accurate information about it.
  • Activists use powerful misleading soundbytes to sway public opinion.
  • It creates jobs and the growing industry will put more people to work.
  • It's a clean energy source that is abundant. 

The natural gas contained in the shale formations represents a huge storehouse of America's cleanest fossil fuel. The Potential Gas Committee, a non-profit group of natural gas experts, forecasts that this resource base contains 1,836 Tcf of gas. This, plus the proven reserves (238 Tcf ) identified by the US Department of Energy in 2007, means that the U.S. has enough natural gas to last at current rates of use for 118 years. 

Some aren’t buying into the fracking hype however and think the risks are too high. Attacks on fracking come from environmental, political, and economical sides. Movies such as Gasland, Gasland2, Promised Land, Down Deep and Unearthed have even brought each side’s issues to the big screen and social media. Polarized by divided allegiances to politics, parties, and popular opinion, many people are left wondering who to trust and what to believe. 

PART 2 OF THIS BLOG SERIES WILL COVER:

Noise issues associated with fracking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: environmental noise, hydrofracking noise, fracking noise, city noise laws, drilling noise, compressor noise, industrial noise, Noise pollution, noise barrier

Try Shutting Your Earlids When You Encounter Secondhand Noise

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Dec 11, 2013 4:48:00 PM

soundproofing, noise pollution, secondhand noise, Acoustiblok

Second-hand noise is an unwanted airborne pollutant produced by others. It is imposed on us without our consent, often against our wills, and at times, places, and volumes over which we have no control. There is growing evidence that noise pollution is not merely an annoyance; like other forms of pollution, it has wide-ranging adverse health, social, and economic effects.

Many people are not aware of it or even think about it, but noise affects us without our being consciously aware of it. We can shut our eyes to exclude unwanted or potentially harmful visual images, but try shutting your ears voluntarily to exclude unwanted noise. Our hearing mechanisms are always on even when we are asleep.

cartoons sounds around usMankind has been plagued by both natural and manmade affliction. In the 21st Century, we have little choice when it comes to noise and experiencing the man-made infestation of environmental noise from which there is virtually no escape, no matter where we are – in our homes and yards, on our streets, in our cars, at theaters, restaurants, parks, arenas, and in other public places. Despite attempts to regulate it, noise pollution has become an unfortunate fact of life worldwide and it just seems to be getting worse.

The noise problems of the past pale in significance when compared with those experienced by modern city dwellers; noise pollution continues to grow in extent, frequency, and severity as a result of population growth, urbanization, and technological developments.

Whether you make the noise or not, the reality is second-hand noise is everywhere these days. It’s virtually inescapable. Our modern roadways (including road, rail, and air) and the products of cartoon noisy neighbors with blowersmodern power machinery and technology produce increasing levels of unwanted noise of varying types and intensities throughout the day and night that disturb sleep, detract from our ability to concentration, make us tired, increase anxiety and stress, and can raise blood pressure and cause headaches.

Tags: environmental noise, secondhand noise, nuisance noise, Noise pollution, Acoustiblok

I'm Thinking. Please. Be Quiet

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Aug 28, 2013 1:25:00 PM

 

Main Image for NY Times Noise Blog Post Aug 2013__________________________________________________________________________________

The following is an excerpt from Author George Prochnik that ran in the New York Times Opinion Pages on Sunday, on August 24, 2013.  George Prochnik is the author of the forthcoming book “The Impossible Exile.”  ___________________________________________________________________________________

Slamming doors, banging walls, bellowing strangers and whistling neighbors were the bane of the (19th Century German) philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s (shown above) existence. But it was only in later middle age, after he had moved with his beloved poodle to the commercial hub of Frankfurt, that his sense of being tortured by loud, often superfluous blasts of sound ripened into a philosophical diatribe. Then, around 1850, Schopenhauer pronounced noise to be the supreme archenemy of any serious thinker.

His argument against noise was simple: A great mind can have great thoughts only if all its powers of concentration are brought to bear on one subject, in the same way that a concave mirror focuses light on one point.

Just as a mighty army becomes useless if its soldiers are scattered helter-skelter, a great mind becomes ordinary the moment its energies are dispersed.

describe the imageAnd nothing disrupts thought the way noise does, Schopenhauer declared, adding that even people who are not philosophers lose whatever ideas their brains can carry in consequence of brutish jolts of sound.

From the vantage point of our own auditory world, with its jets, jackhammers, HVAC systems, truck traffic, cellphones, horns, decibel-bloated restaurants and gyms on acoustical steroids, Schopenhauer’s mid-19th century complaints sound almost quaint. His biggest gripe of all was the “infernal cracking” of coachmen’s whips. (If you think a snapping line of
rawhide’s a problem, buddy, try the Rumbler Siren.) But if noise did shatter thought in the past, has more noise in more places further diffused our cognitive activity?

Environmental noise calls attention to itself — splits our own attention, regardless of willpower. We jerk to the tug of noise like sonic marionettes. There’s good reason for this. Among mammals, hearing developed as an early warning system; the human ear derived from the listening apparatus of very small creatures. Their predators were very big, and there were many of them.

blog ear spimd waves The evolved ear is an extraordinary amplifier. By the time the brain registers a sound, our auditory mechanism has jacked the volume several hundredfold from the level at which the sound wave first started washing around the loopy whirls of our ears. This is why, in a reasonably quiet room, we actually can hear a pin drop. Think what a tiny quantity of sound energy is released by a needle striking a floor! Our ancestors needed such hypersensitivity, because every standout noise signified a potential threat.

There has been a transformation in our relationship to the environment over the millions of years since the prototype for human hearing evolved, but part of our brain hasn’t registered the makeover.

Every time a siren shrieks on the street, our conscious minds might ignore it, but other brain regions behave as if that siren were a predator barreling straight for us. Given how many sirens city dwellers are subject to over the course of an average day, and the attention-fracturing tension induced by loud sounds of every sort, it’s easy to see how sensitivity to noise, once an early warning system for approaching threats, has become a threat in itself.

Indeed, our capacity to tune out noises — a relatively recent adaptation — may itself pose a danger, since it allows us to neglect the physical damage that noise invariably wreaks. A Hyena (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise Near Airports) study published in 2009 examined the effects of aircraft noise on sleeping subjects. The idea was to see what effect noise had, not only on those awakened by virtual fingernails raking the blackboard of the night sky, but on the hardy souls who actually slept through the thunder of overhead jets.

blood pressure1BlueThe findings were clear: even when people stayed asleep, the noise of planes taking off and landing caused blood pressure spikes, increased pulse rates and set off vasoconstriction and the release of stress hormones. Worse, these harmful cardiovascular responses continued to affect individuals for many hours after they had awakened and gone on with their days.

As Dr. Wolfgang Babisch, a lead researcher in the field, observed, there is no physiological habituation to noise. The stress of audible assault affects us psychologically even when we don’t consciously register noise.

In American culture, we tend to regard sensitivity to noise as a sign of weakness or killjoy prudery. To those who complain about sound levels on the streets, inside their homes and across a swath of public spaces like stadiums, beaches and parks, we say: “Suck it up. Relax and have a good time.” But the scientific evidence shows that loud sound is physically debilitating. A recent World Health Organization report on the burden of disease from environmental noise conservatively estimates that Western Europeans lose more than one million healthy life years annually as a consequence of noise-related disability and disease. Among environmental hazards, only air pollution causes more damage.

A while back, I was interviewed on a call-in radio station serving remote parts of Newfoundland. One caller lived in a village with just a few houses and almost no vehicular traffic. Her family had been sitting in the living room one evening when the power suddenly cut off. They simultaneously exhaled a sigh of relief. All at once, the many electronic devices around them (including the refrigerator, computers, generator, lamps and home entertainment systems and the unnatural ambient hum they generated and to which the family had become oblivious) went silent. The family members didn’t realize until the sound went off how loud it had become. Without knowing it, each family member’s mental energy was constantly diverted by and responsive to the threat posed by that sound.

Where does this leave those of us facing less restrained barrages? Could a critical mass of sound one day be reached that would make sustained thinking impossible?

Pullout Numb 2 for NY Times Article PostIs quiet a precondition of democracy? The Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter suggested it might just be. “The men whose labors brought forth the Constitution of the United States had the street outside Independence Hall covered with earth so that their deliberations might not be disturbed by passing traffic,” he once wrote. “Our democracy presupposes the deliberative process as a condition of thought and of responsible choice by the electorate.”

The quiet in Independence Hall was not the silence of a monastic retreat, but one that encouraged listening to others and collaborative statesmanship; it was a silence that made them more receptive to the sound of the world around them.

Most people who are seeking more serenity from the acoustical environment aren’t asking for the silence of the tomb. We just believe we should be able to hear ourselves think.

 

 

_______________________________

 

Read George Prochnik’s full article 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/im-thinking-please-be-quiet.html?pagewanted=all

Learn more about Arthur Schopenhauer

Among 19th century philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer was among the first to contend that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. (source: Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer

 

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Tags: environmental noise, Effects of noise, effect of noise on concentration, adverse health affects of noise, noise affects on concentration, how noise affects the brain, noise

Noise Taxi Transforms Noise Pollution into Surprisingly Cool Music

Posted by Liz Ernst on Sep 25, 2012 8:54:00 AM

Wow! This is cool.

London’s street noise just got a make-over.

Like any bloated, busy international hub of a city, London has a noise pollution problem that is indicative of a 21st century urban environment that hasn’t been quiet since forever.  Traffic, sirens, horns, crowds – you know, real city noise.

But last week, an incredibly clever sound artist and designer named Yori Suzuki and his collaborator, headphone developer AiAiAi hit the road in their Sound Taxi – an ambitious 67- design and sound project on wheels that promises to make the city sound better. Nicer. More melodic.

And it does so by trapping the noise pollution straight out of the airspace and converting it to music.

And it does – at least if you’re in or near the Sound Taxi as it’s drivensound taxi London around London, taking in noise pollution through a roof-mounted measurement mic, recycling the external noise and releasing it back into its surroundings in a sort of space-agey soft jazz; well, at least that’s what the tracks I heard sound like. No two tunes are going to be the same, as Suzuki’s specially designed sound software contained within the vehicle converts the chaotic noise pollution it’s collecting from the streets of London and immediately converts it to the software’s purified re-mixes that are actually quite pleasant - far superior to the lumbering of a diesel truck or the hissing of a double decker bus.

The music is dispersed through the barrage of horns that give the Sound Taxi the look of a vintage black London taxi – probably an Austin FX4, which were produced between 1948 and 1958 – sprouting shiny silver versions of those huge Indian horns that are generally used to call worshipers to temple. It’s not a low key ride.

Passengers in the Sound Taxi sound taxi are provided with headphones to listen to the noise-pollution-turned-calming-melodies during their ride. Folks on the street are also treated to the converted music, and it draws looks of surprise followed by smiles from most upon first glance. Most of the Sound Taxi’s speakers are embedded in the side of the vehicle, with eight of the enormous India horns reaching out to the city from the roof.

Liat Clark of Wired Magazine, UK, took a ride in the Sound Taxi last week and had some interesting observations.

With each passing motorbike and each hiss of a bus entering the rooftop mic, a new sound exits the speakers, turning it at one point into a “tinkering hi-hat frenzy,” according to Clark.

The rooftop  measurement microphone analyzes the incoming noise’s different frequencies and translates them into musical times using Ableton Live loop-based recording software. For example, siren noise taken in through the mic reads at a medium frequency, generating a medium melody in which the bass isn’t too rough.

In a city that sees most residents trying to escape the urban noise pollution that surrounds them by wearing headphones and tuning out the world around them, the Sound Taxi elicits reactions from almost everyone it passes. Clark describes it aptly:

“A quick spin round Mayfair and builders taking a break on Burlington Gardens can't wipe the sheer glee off their faces, Bond Street shop workers run out when the cab's in traffic to pose for Twitpics, and tourists just start laughing, presumably thinking, 'oh the English, what are they like?'”

Fans of art-based automobile oddities  (yes, there are fans of art-based automobile oddities) are able to track the cab’s  movements from the Make The City Sound Better website (www.makethecitysoundbetter.com) offering a live feed that streams the Sound Taxi’s travels, compiled tracks are played, and GPS tracking can help users find its current location.Unfortunately, the Sound Taxi went off road September 21, but rumor has it that it will be back.

Although the Sound Taxi was developed to promote sound engineering software, Suzuki may have inadvertently paved a new way to address noise pollution on the streets of the world’s busiest – and noisiest cities.

Check it out for yourself, and tell me this isn’t better than the sounds of garbage trucks lumbering and ambulances screaming past your ears 24/7?

I thought not.

Tags: environmental noise, sound taxi, traffic noise, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise abatement, noise insulating material

The Hazards of Noise Pollution Gaining Awareness in Big Cities

Posted by Liz Ernst on Aug 10, 2012 2:01:00 AM

 city noise pollution

News about noise pollution seems to be trending in a big way, as growing awareness of the health risks of noise makes more and more Americans less willing to put up with it. Recent articles and news coverage about unbearably loud environments in New York, Virginia, New Orleans and Los Angeles to name just a few raise a good question: Does noise pollution have to go hand-in-hand with urban living, or are city dwellers within their rights to demand change in the form of lowered decibels?

Recent articles in the New York Times, L.A. Times, and Wall Street Journal have blown the lid off of the life-threatening nuisance that is noise pollution.  Several articles hit the media in early summer pinpointing roadway traffic noise as a proven contributor to heart attacks among people exposed. Long Island and Hamptons residents are close to anarchy over the uber-rich one-percenters flying back and forth in private helicopters daily between their Hamptons vacation homes to their Manhattan offices, with no regulation in place regarding flight paths or flight times. The helicopter noise, which residents claim shakes their homes and wakes them from their sleep, is being interpreted by the unhappy neighbors of these wealthy heli-commuters as intentionally inflicted harassment .

Yet the helicopter offenders don’t seem to care that they’re making their neighbors miserable and probably even affecting their health. Or if they do care, it’s not enough to give up their airborne transportation and return to fighting Manhattan-to-Hamptons roadway traffic every day.

But the escalating attention given to the hazards of noise pollution on everyday working Americans hit home hardest a few weeks ago when the New York Times published reporter Cara Buckley’s jaw-dropping account of noise levels measured in 37 Manhattan businesses - bars, restaurants, gyms and shops. Noise levels in one of every three business visited was 10-20 decibels or more above those levels deemed safe by OSHA and the World Health Organization.

City noise is no longer something Americans are taking in stride and chalking off as the price we pay to live in the city. Shortly after Ms. Buckley’s expose ran, New York Tines architectural critic Michael Kimmelman, tweeted about Manhattan noise.

"Not a sign of big city grit, but an urban blight." he tweeted.  In a follow-up tweet, Mr. Kimmelman called noise pollution “the next ecological challenge for the city."

Could it be that people are becoming proactive about noise pollution? Maybe. Architects and builders in recent years have discovered the importance of including noise abatement materials in new home and renovation designs, as noise pollution creeps further and further into every cranny of our existence, with disastrous consequences to health and hearing. Soundproofing increases the value of real estate, as buyers find real appeal in the idea of home being a true haven, particularly when home is in the heart of any major urban area.

And, new and improved noise barrier and noise deadening materials are available today for use in residential, commercial, and industrial structures. As it stands, the U.S. is significantly less stringent on acceptable decibel levels in the workplace than almost every other country on earth! The economic impact of enforcing noise abatement in public places vs. the health risks of noise pollution has so far been siding with economics. For instance, noisy sightseeing planes in the Grand Canyon have been proven to damage wildlife habitats, and impose unhealthy noise levels on tourists, park rangers, and park employees alike; but a recent bill to regulate low flying aircraft noise over the Grand Canyon was rejected by Congress during passage of a federal transportation funding bill in early July that opponents claim was unexpected and unannounced.

Ironically, this happened just before the National Park Service was about to present its final recommendations on reducing aircraft noise over the Grand Canyon – a recommendation that was formulated after years of noise studies, at a cost of $6 million, plus the collection of nearly 30,000 public comments researchers had gathered.  Arizona Senator John McCain spearheaded the effort to quash aircraft noise regulation in the national park, stating that the regulations would cause serious economic hardship to small plane and helicopter tour operators at the Grand Canyon.

It’s hard to say how much longer noise pollution in the U.S. will be relatively free of limitations. At lease noise deadening materials keep improving, so that if you choose to live in the city, you can install a noise abatement solution that can give you some peace and quiet.

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Tags: environmental noise, noise induced sleep deprivation, noise abatement materials, health effects of sleep loss, noise blocking materials, traffic noise, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise

Noise Induced Sleep Deprivation is a Global Health Problem

Posted by Liz Ernst on Jul 18, 2012 6:40:00 PM

man can't sleep due to environmental noise

Hoping to find a more targeted approach to helping people who suffer from sleep deprivation,  researchers have been studying the brains of people who are able to sleep through the night even when subjected to noise levels that prevent others from sleeping well.

Are some folks just better wired to block out noise? If so, can the gift nature bestowed on them be used to help others who are struggling with noise-related sleep impairment? As most of us already know, environmental noise can wreak havoc on sleep quality, which can eventually impact our health. In fact, studies showing the heightened incidents of heart attacks in people exposed to noise pollution from excessive road traffic noise note sleep disturbances among those issues that are common to most (if not all) study participants.

According to a 2009 CDC survey, approximately one in 10 Americans report difficulty sleeping. More than 50 million Americans are plagued with chronic sleep disorders that can potentially lead to serious health problems.

Electroencephalography (EEG) testing on 12 healthy people, performed by researchers from Harvard Medical School and  Massachusetts General Hospital, was used in the study to establish sleep quality. By capturing brain wave rhythms through the EEG scans, researchers could identify movements made as each test subject passed from one stage of sleep to the next.

The researchers subjected people to sensory information, including sound, which passes through the thalamus – a structure in the brain that relays sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex, and also regulates consciousness, sleep, and alertness. The sound passes through the thalamus before it reaches the brain’s cortex, where communication signals are processed, even during sleep.

Here’s why this is important, if somewhat confusing to non-scientists. In the second and third stages of sleep, brain wave patterns actually slow down but then are scattered with short, quick pulses called spindles. Spindles only occur during sleep, and researchers think that spindles might help block sensory information like noise from reaching the thalamus to begin with. So, maybe some extra spindle activity could be the answer to sleeping through noise?

What these researchers did to test this theory was to alter the noise levels delivered to the sleeping subjects over a three-day period. The first night they kept things quiet, but the second and third nights the subjects were exposed to noise beginning with 40 decibels for 10 second intervals.  By measuring the brain activity each night and then comparing the differeces, researchers concluded that those test subjects who could sleep through noise levels equivalent to a telephone ringing or highway traffic were determined to have higher spindle rates on their EEGs.

The effects were so pronounced, according to one researcher, that they could be measured after just one noise-filled night.  The next step is to figure out if behavioral techniques, new drugs, or external devices might offer an added boost to spindle activity, which will allow people who are noise sensitive to maintain a healthy, natural state of sleep when confronted with noise.

So far, the best we can do is provide a sleep environment in the home that is as quiet and possible. Installing noise blocking and noise absorbing materials into one or more rooms can have a dramatic effect on sleep quality, and the quality of our sleep plays a huge role in the quality of our lives.

It’s great that researchers are seeking answers to help people sleep in noisy environments, but before we turn to methods to interfere with noise transmission to the brain, shouldn’t we be looking at ways to reduce noise pollution from our environment first?

Noise abatement materials improve all the time, and in many new home building projects architects and contractors are writing the soundproofing material right into the design, so that installation happens before drywall goes up and there’s no worries about retrofitting later.  Other options for blocking environmental noise pollution from residences and outdoor spaces are available, effective, and drug-free.  

Tags: environmental noise, noise induced sleep deprivation, noise abatement materials, health effects of sleep loss, noise blocking materials, traffic noise, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise

Noise Pollution is Altering the Iconic Landscape and Ecosystems of the Southwest

Posted by Liz Ernst on Apr 16, 2012 5:51:00 AM

noise pollution, pinion,pinion tree,scrub jay,noise barrier,sound barrier,noise,noise insulating material,soundproofing  noise, sounds, hummingbird,noise pollution,noisy communities,noise pollution,industrial noise  noise barrier, noise pollution,sound insulating material, noise insulating material, soundproof,pinion,industrial noise

Manmade noise is killing the Iconic Pinyon tree in the Southwest, which is relulting in the loss of habitat and resulting exodus of the scrub jay, and an increase in black chin hummingbirds, flowers, and mice.

If you're thinking that it's April showers bringing those May flowers, you might want to think again, at least if your outdoor environment is particularly noisy. It appears that noise indirectly generates an increase in the growth of flowers and hummingbird populations! Nice!

Actually, not so nice.

Of course there had to be a catch here, as noise pollution really has no positive outcome, so researchers went looking for the cause of this abundant burst of spring beauty, only to discover that the spike in flora and nectar-sipping Trochilidae is the result of a rapid decline in trees - the victims of man-made noise pollution.

In a new study published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers point to a noticeable decline in pinyon (or piñon) pine trees in noisy communities; pinyon pines rely on scrub jays to disperse their seeds. When the trees began to die off as a result of exposure to high levels of man-made noise, the scrub jays were forced to move to find new habitat. 

Interestingly, black-chinned hummingbirds actually seek out noisy areas when they go about their flower pollinating business to avoid the scrub jays, which have a taste for hummingbird nestlings and eggs.

How did reasearchers conclude that it was noise that was killing the trees and throwing the natural balance of flora and fauna off kilter? Well, they began with a hunch, since it was the noisiest communities near natural gas wells operating high-decibel compressors that were that were losing their shady spots on the Mesas and red rocks of their landscapes.

Pinyons have been part of the Southwest U.S. landscape for centuries. Their existence in the arid and rocky canyons of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California began when ancestral Puebloans, formerly known as the Anasazi, used pinyon poles as door headers in their dwellings and stashed pinyon nuts in the area more than 400 years ago.

A testament to the growing power of the pinyon, the original trees sprouted from an isolated grove found in Owl Creek Canyon near Ft. Collins, Colorado.

Scientists set up motion-activated cameras at a variety of sites in the Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area, in northwestern New Mexico. Some of the sites monitored were quiet; others subjected to noise from the gas well compressors. While the scrub jays fled from their nests in the noisy areas, mice (like the hummingbirds) took advantage to feast on the pinyon seeds, and the rodent population increased.

Before the Royal Society study began, an earlier study reported that about 1,000 species of fungi, insects, arthropods, mammals and birds depend on pinyons. When it becomes evident that noise pollution has the ability to affect and potentially eradicate an entire ecosystem, the true impact of noise on the human as well as animal and plant life could be staggering.

Evolutionary Ecologist Clinton D. Francis of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C., says the noise pollution-triggered changes in these centuries-old landscapes and habitats will have a serious impact on the ecosystem of the Southwest. The scrub jays, Francis points out, will hide thousands of pinion seeds in the autumn and build up a store of food. However, they forget some of their hiding spots, and the forgotten seeds can grow into seedlings. Mice, on the other hand, tend to eat all the seeds they find, which will strip the area of the pinion pine tree eventually. Dr. Francis says he worries about the loss of pinyon pines, which play a crucial role in the ecosystem of the Southwest.

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Tags: environmental noise, noise insulating materialpinyon tree, pinon tree, hummingbirds, ecosystem, outdoor noise, industrial noise, Noise pollution, noise barrier

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is a Growing Problem Nationwide

Posted by Liz Ernst on Jun 8, 2011 10:05:00 AM

Pete Townshend Rock legend Pete Townshend of "The Who" has severe hearing damage resulting partly from the band's live gigs, but mainly from the deafening volume in which he used to listen to playbacks over the studio "cans." Completely deaf in one ear, Townshend's hearing damage manifested itself as tinnitus, a condition Townshend calls painful and frustrating.

Hearing loss due to environmental noise is a serious health hazard today, and it is on the rise.  Exposure to loud noise for extended periods of time can lead to irreversible hearing loss and other health problems. 

             rock concert   Pete Townshend performing   Townshend today             

Of course there is no one “cure” for noise pollution, but there are preventative measures that can be taken.

Noise induced hearing loss can be generated from industrial noise as well as exposure to any amplified sounds, such as at concerts and nightclubs. Usually, hearing loss experienced from attending an extremely loud event is only temporary and will correct itself in time. However, musicians who entertain regularly in these environments often suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss over the course of their careers. Individuals who listen to music at extremely high volumes routinely are also vulnerable to permanent hearing loss.

Industrial sectors like airline, highway and light rail train systems, mining operations, construction, manufacturing and engineering industries contribute to the most serious levels of industrial noise pollution. In fact, according to OSHA officials, every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise.

Fortunately, the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss can be reduced or eliminated through the successful application of acoustical controls and hearing conservation programs.  Employers today must invest in hearing protection measures that correspond to the type of noise and decibel levels to which their employees are subjected.

Generally, there are three levels of noise hazards: Impact noise (as in an explosion or gunshots); Intermittent noise (such as noise generated from heavy vehicle traffic), and continuous noise (machinery that runs constantly, such as generators, industrial pumps, lawn equipment, jackhammers, conveyors, residential heat pumps, etc.).

Businesses with noise issues serious enough to effect employees, visitors, neighbors or pedestrians look for noise reduction solutions that are most adaptable to their particular noise source and are capable of dramatically reducing noise and the health risks that go with it.  Businesses with machinery so loud that ordinary conversation is impossible risk additional hazards when employees and visitors cannot communicate adequately.

In some industries such as mining and construction, specially designed ear protectors, or ear muffs offer protection from hearing loss in extreme noise surroundings, and in some instances enable communication by utilizing Bluetooth technology. In other settings, such as airport terminals, hospitals, jails and prisons, restaurants and others that experience high decibel ambient noise levels, sound barriers and sound reduction materials offer more practical solutions to combatting the health risks of noise pollution.

People need to become proactive about protecting their hearing throughout their lifetime. Today, Townshend promotes taking protective measures, including wearing earplugs, to reduce loud music to a level that does not damage the ear. 

But it's not loud music alone that is damaging American's hearing. Environmental noise pollution is becoming a plague; individuals need to become proactive when it comes to protecting themselves from all types of damaging noise whenever possible.

Tags: environmental noise, noise damping, noise dampening, noise deadening, noise reduction, hearing loss, tinnitus, soundproofing, sound barriers, Noise pollution, noise barrier