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     Volume 6 Issue 19 | May 18, 2007 |

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Tackling Noise Pollution

Syeda Samin Mortada

For centuries the progress of civilisation has been defined by the relentless growth of cities. Today more people live in urban areas than in the countryside. These growths of mega cities indicate an apocalypse of global epidemics and all sorts of pollution, be it air, water or noise. Today we focus on the ever increasing noise pollution that we are facing and how it is gradually changing our lives, definitely not for the better, but for the worse. We are living in a very noisy world, and the more you listen the louder it all becomes.

Think about the last time you were in your office trying to concentrate on an important project; there were phones and mobiles ringing (one of them an abandoned mobile with a tormenting ring tone), air conditioner humming, keyboards rattling and colleagues rambling nearby. At the end of the day, when you finally wanted to relax in your way back home, the excessive noise of buses, trucks, automobiles and motorbikes started to give you a headache and the unnecessary tooting of horns just wanted to make you cry. Reaching home, when you decided to call it a day and went off to bed, the guy upstairs with his power tools and mallets, or the loud speaker from a birthday party nearby drilled you with severe noise pollution.

Noise is a prominent feature of the environment including noise from transport, industry and neighbours. In 1996, the World Health Organisation declared noise to be a significant threat to health. It has documented seven categories of adverse health effects of noise pollution on humans. They are: hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular disturbances, disturbances in mental health, impaired task performance and negative social behaviour and annoyance reactions. A study published in the European Heart Journal, Berlin reports that chronic noise exposure does more than threaten your hearing. Prolonged exposure to high noise levels was shown to cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of a heart attack. Another study by researchers at the University of Michigan also suggested that loud work environments can raise blood pressure and is associated with a wide range of effects on human health and well being.

There is a rise among teenagers and children with impaired hearing in one or both ears. The use of personal music players, ear phones and headsets at potentially dangerous volume settings for extended periods of time may have adverse effects which may even lead to permanent hearing loss. Rock musicians, employees of music clubs and people working in places where noise frequently exceeds safe levels are also at risk.

Besides being a health problem, noise is also a social problem in today's modern society. Studies have demonstrated an association between serious annoyance, and highly correlated social responses such as stress anxiety affecting the quality of life on one hand and (psychological) symptoms, cognitive complaints, (self-) medication and use of health services on the other. Noise intrudes into our personal privacy and disturbs our daily activities. The damage noise does to our hearing and mental health depends on the din we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Whether knowingly or unknowingly everyone of us contribute to some noise pollution in our day-to-day activities. Human created noise is harmful to the health and welfare not only for humans but wild life as well. High noise levels may interfere with the natural cycles of animals, including feeding behaviour, breeding rituals and migration paths.

Noise is a threat to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Exposure to noise is on the increase, especially in the general living environment, both in industrialised nations and in developing world regions. This implies that in the coming years noise exposure will still be a major public health problem.

Promoting awareness of this problem, and preventing and abating noise as much as possible is therefore necessary. We need to create, collect, and distribute information and resources on noise pollution. Laws can be strengthened and government efforts increased to help control the pollution. Networks need to be established among environmental, professional, medical, governmental, and activist groups working on noise pollution issues and the activists should be assisted to work against noise pollution. We further need to encourage responsible behaviour regarding noise pollution and foster recognition of the right to quiet.

It is our right to wish to listen or not listen to a particular music or song, depending on our tastes and moods without having other people's choice forced upon us wherever we go. We want to be able to attend movies, listen to speeches, or go dancing without unreasonably loud amplification of noise. And most importantly we want our homes and work places to become havens from unwanted noise.

It will not be possible to create an absolutely quiet world, but to want to see a world where peace and quiet is apart of life and to listen to the sounds of nature without the constant intrusion of machine noise and artificial stimuli may well be possible. We just need to strive and cooperate to achieve that goal!


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