Noise Pollution

It’s noisy out there!

Photo credit: Marc Smith licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece by author Teddy Wayne in the New York Times discusses “the cacophony produced by today’s mobile phone or tablet” and how we have somehow become inured to it. I’m not sure I understand all the points made, but I agree with this statement: “It’s noisy as heck out there.”

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

 

Join us and others in measuring noise

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

There are now at least two apps to measure and report restaurant noise, and two apps to measure and report outdoor noise or urban soundscapes.

Anyone concerned about noise, as we are, should install one or more of these apps on his or her smart phone and start reporting noise levels.

All of these apps are free and rely on crowdsourcing to get city wide data. So down load one–or all of them–and help gather data to make your city or town a more tolerable place. Data from SoundPrint was used in a study presented at the 174th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America documenting excessive noise levels in restaurants and bars in New York City.

The apps are listed alphabetically in each category:

For restaurant noise:

iHearU

SoundPrint

For urban soundscapes:

Hush City App

NoiseScore

DISCLOSURE: I serve as Medical Advisor for SoundPrint.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

NY Comptroller: Noise is a serious issue in New York City

And New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s report concludes that silencing excessive NYC noise a major challenge. DiNapoli notes that “[n]oise in New York City is a significant quality of life and public health concern.”

We agree.

So does Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., professor emerita, City University of New York, chair of the Noise Committee of GrowNYC, and co-founder of The Quiet Coalition, who notes that “[r]esearch shows that noise is not only a nuisance, but more importantly, has adverse effects on our mental and physical health.”

You can read DiNapoli’s report here (pdf).

 

Death by noise

Photo credit: Rickard Zerpe licensed under CC BY 2.0

Amy Mitchell-Whittington, The Age, reports that boat noise could be distracting young reef fish and getting them eaten.

How? A study shows that exposing young Ambon damselfish to boat noise “disrupted learning behaviour,” and fish exposed to boat noise “were more likely die within 72 hours of being released into the wild.”

Why?

That’s the subject of the next study.

 

 

Noise is causing hearing loss in traffic police in India

Photo credit: GPS licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the Indian city of Pune documents hearing loss in traffic police. Apparently car horns are the main culprit. So how bad could it be?  This bad:

A study of 46 traffic personnel “found that 39 of the 46 traffic personnel could not pick up high frequency tones, indicating alarmingly high (83%) presence of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) among the city’s traffic police.”

And the damage isn’t limited to hearing loss, as “the traffic personnel were also screened for hypertension,” and “13 of the 46 traffic personnel have been diagnosed with hypertension, a condition they were unaware about.

I have traveled in India, although not to Pune, and it is a noisy country. The big cities–Mumbai and Delhi–are noisier than New York City, so this report isn’t a surprise to me.

But there’s no reason to believe that ears in India are different from ears in the U.S. Traffic noise causes hearing loss and other health problems in the U.S., too.

Perhaps India–and the U.S.–should follow Kathmandu’s successful effort at eradicating traffic noise, because it can be done if the political will exists.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

When in doubt, sue—Canadians did and won

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Hard to believe that Canadians could be as litigious as we are down here in the U.S., but this Canadian group won their noise suit.

Imagine suing a U.S. federal agency about highway construction noise and actually winning! Of course, it took this Canadian group two decades to win, and in toto they won only $3.5 million. In the end, a typical family will receive about $3,000 to $5,000—that’s enough for a family to buy a single pair of hearing aids–so perhaps the whole family will take turns wearing them?

But what this case suggests is that legal action is a viable strategy—at least in regions where it’s understood that noise is public health problem and that, therefore, citizens are entitled to relief.

Are we there yet in the U.S.?

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Pursuing an invisible threat

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Prof. Richard Neitzel, of the University of Michigan and a co-founder of The Quiet Coalition, views noise as an invisible threat. In this university news release, he discusses some of his research and its implications for health.

Watch Dr. Neitzel talk about noise pollution and his career studying noise pollution exposure and health outcomes:

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Information is our weapon against noise

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As this column by Jane Brody discusses, 47 years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest started informing the public about good nutrition and also influencing public policy about food labeling and nutrition standards.

CSPI’s success has been mixed, but it clearly has had a major impact.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I became a noise activist three years ago–after reading this article in The New York Times science section about hyperacusis, which I have–I set out to do the same thing for noise that CSPI has done for food and nutrition.

Everything I do regarding noise is based on scientific and medical evidence. To my surprise, most of the information I have written about has been known since the early 1970s, or even earlier. It just has been forgotten since the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded (pdf) during the Reagan years. I took me a year to learn what a safe noise level is, as I wrote in the American Journal of Public Health. [Hint: it’s not 85 decibels without time limit, as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health insists on its website, with the misleading statement “[l]ong or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.” That’s true, but it’s like the National Cancer Institute saying, “standing out in the sun every day for a long time all summer long can cause skin cancer.”]

So let’s hope that regulators and policy makers will begin to recognize the dangers of noise exposure in the new year. I’m certainly going to do my part to bring this problem to their attention. I hope you will join me.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Local airports are a problem too

Photo credit: Addison YC licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Local airports are a problem for those who live near them.

Airports big and small–from Logan in Boston and Reagan in Washington to the airports in the Hamptons and Santa Monica–have been in the news recently for noise and air pollution problems.

And now it’s Teterboro Airport’s turn in the spotlight.

I lived under the flight path to the Santa Monica Airport from 1991-2009, so I saw (or perhaps heard) the transition from single-engine Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper aircraft, with a rare Beechcraft King Air two-engine plane from time to time, to Gulfstream 3, 4, and 5 jets. The single-engine planes didn’t make much noise, but not so for the jets.

A few things happened simultaneously. Thanks to airline deregulation, the number of passengers flying increased dramatically, without a corresponding increase in airport capacity. Because of this, airline service quality declined. After September 11, 2001, things got much worse. The security regulations made it unpleasant and time-consuming to travel on commercial flights, even in first or business class. The rise of the multi-millionaire and billionaire classes, thanks to strong markets and federal tax policies favoring wealthy investors, meant that many more people could afford to charter small jets, purchase fractional jet ownerships, or even buy their own planes.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald is reputed to have said, “the rich are different from you and me.” Why put up with the hassles of going through airport security and waiting for the boarding announcement when your limousine can drop you off and your private jet’s crew will load your bags while your custom-ordered meals are being delivered? Of course, the costs of these luxuries aren’t just borne by the rich. Those living near the airports put up with the noise and pollution.

In Santa Monica, the community finally rose in opposition and after a lengthy legal battle, succeeded in getting the airport to cease operations in 2028. Noise and safety concerns–a Gulfstream jet produces a lot more pollution and noise than a single-engine plane, and if one ever crashes it will cause a lot more damage than a small plane–were the major issues.

I hope I live ten more years to see (and hear) this happen. And I hope that those living near other small airports are successful in their efforts to control noise and pollution problems, too.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

The EU takes noise very seriously

Photo credit: Anthony Luco licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Connexion France cites a report by Le Monde that France was warned by European Commission on noise levels. Apparently “Brussels demanded that France instantly adopt its action points on the reduction of “ambient noise”, after the country was found to be in breach of the 2002 directive on the issue.” The directive that France is apparently breaching requires EU nation states to “measure and reduce noise levels in large towns, along main roads and railway tracks, and around large airports, and keep them within the European limits.” European limits are 68 decibels during the day and 62 decibels at night time.

This is not the first time that the EC has warned a member nation about noise, as The Connexion France says that since 2016, the EC has issued noise complaints against 13 members. Why is the EC so forceful about regulating noise? Because the Commission understands that “noise, especially that from traffic, trains or planes is the ‘second largest cause of premature death [among nearby residents] after atmospheric pollution.'” Adds Antoine Perez Munoz of Bruitparif, the noise regulator in Ile-de-France, “[o]n average, noise pollution causes seven months’ loss of good health or life per person, and up to two years’ loss for someone living in a very noisy area.”

One hopes for a future where the U.S. government is as vigilant with regard to noise.  Kudos to the EC.