by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition
“Turning down the volume” by Maria Papadodimitraki (translated from Greek by Antigone Debbaut) is another article addressing the need to pay more attention to the harmful impacts of noise pollution on our physical and mental health. What especially drew my attention to this article was its introductory statement: “Noise pollution is a form of violence.” Those words were said by Voula Pagagianni, an educator and president of the Hellenic Young Children’s University.
Papadodimitraki supports the need to reduce noise by citing the large body of research on the adverse effects of noise on our hearing, cardiovascular system, sleep, cognitive performance, and overall psychological well being. She also includes references that man-made noises harm other species as well, e.g. marine organisms, birds.
Yet, she reports some good news, too. Namely, that cities such as Stockhom, Vienna, and Zurich are taking actions to reduce noise pollution. This includes installing acoustic fencing and soundproof windows in apartments exposed to high levels of noise, traffic calming measures on roads, promotion of bicycle use and introducing electric buses. But as Athanasios Trochidis, emeritus professor, civil engineering, at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, tells Papadodimitraki, “[p]erhaps the best way to deal with noise pollution is prevention—to not make noise.”
On another positive note, the author points out that the European Union has set sound level standards aimed to “counteract the negative impact of noise pollution on health.” She adds, unfortunately, that the U.S. “has much higher—some would say lower standards” when referring to what would be considered tolerable noise exposures. This should not be surprising to the anti-noise advocates in the U.S. long concerned about the high sound level standards set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The article’s strong introduction is followed with a strong concluding quote by Professor Nikos Barkas, who says:
Noise pollution is a factor in the deterioration of our quality of life. This is why it is crucial that we change our attitude to noise pollution and take action to address the problem.
Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press. In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.