Noise Pollution

Why do people hate leaf blowers?

 

Leaf blower overkill  |  Photo credit: Hector Alejandro licensed under CC BY 2.0

Because everything about them is so awful!

Well, that’s just our opinion. , howstuffworks.com, gives a more detailed answer. Dove starts by noting that “unlike lawn mowers, leaf blowers are probably the most villainized devices in the lawn care universe,” because they are now used year-round and for many–most?–the noise level they create is unacceptable. As a result, when leaf blowers first became common in the U.S., Dove says two California communities, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Beverly Hills, banned leaf blowers back in the 1970s.  And they have been followed since then by hundreds of communities nationwide that have banned or limited their use.

Why are leaf blowers so hateful? Dove asks and answers:

What is it about leaf blowers that people hate? Is it the decibels? The constancy? Do leaf blowers pose real dangers to the health of users or others who happen to be within earshot? Increasingly, the answer appears to be “yes” —to all of the above.

In the end, leaf blowers create a whirlwind of dust that includes, among other things, dried animal feces, molds, and fungi. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers emit a litany of horribles, including benzene, a known carcinogen. And then there is the noise, which is not merely a nuisance but also a serious health threat.

As for those who would ask how we could possibly deal with fallen leaves without leaf blowers, may we suggest the following:

Photo credit: Carol VanHook licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Rakes are a healthier, cheaper, and quieter alternative to the loud, filthy, and dangerous leaf blowers we’ve put up with for entirely too long.

 

Anti-social miscreant charged criminally

for being an anti-social miscreant: Man charged for playing car stereo too loud. No doubt there may be some who assume the cops in Central Saanich on Vancouver Island, Canada, have too much time on their hands and too little work to do.

And they would be wrong.

Although Dustin Hamilton, the offender, claims he didn’t mean to annoy people, well, let’s just say certain facts belie his feigned innocence. Like the fact that his “car is equipped with a decibel reader and he says he plays it at 150.” Or that he boasted to Asymina Kantorowicz, writer/producer at CTV News, that his sound system can reach 155 decibels. To give you an idea about how loud that is, according to Dangerous Decibels, a jet plane at 100 feet away is around 135 decibels, and the permissible listening time for someone exposed to 115 decibels is under 30 seconds. It’s a wonder he can even hear.

And then there’s the bit about the number of neighbors filing complaints. Said Hamilton, “[i]f somebody just came up to me nicely saying ‘hey I live here this is what’s happening’ you know we could do that but I never had that, I just had a guy follow me and try and assault me,” adding, “[i]t went from that to basically 17 people complaining and a mischief charge.” From one guy trying to assault him to 17 complaints, and he has no idea why.

Hamilton’s charge comes with certain conditions, like not contacting the complainants and not driving on certain roads. No surprise he is put out, as is his girlfriend, who likes her music as loud as he does, reminding us of the adage, “there’s a lid for every pot.”

In the end, Hamilton would claim that the reason for the crazy loud music isn’t some sociopathic need to torment his neighbors. No, for Hamilton it comes down to this: “I can play anything, rap, hip-hop, it all sounds good … I love sound man.”

Not for long, Hamilton.

Thanks to Jan L. Mayes for the link.

How a tsunami revealed human noise pollution

 

Photo credit: Calbear22, photo released into the public domain

Phys.org reports how a tsunami that struck Hawaii in 2011–caused by the same earthquake that hit Japan and created the tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster–caused a temporary halt to boat traffic that allowed scientists “a rare glimpse into what the bays might sound like without human activities.” By luck, the tsunami hit while “a Duke University-lead team was recording underwater sound in four bays” on Hawaii’s Kona coat.

It turns out that oceans are pretty loud. On the day of the tsunami, the loudest part of the day reached 98.8 decibels. Why are oceans so loud? “Because sound waves travel and are amplified differently in water than in air.” But 98.8 decibels was quiet compared to a reading on a typical day, as noise from boat traffic can reach up to 125 decibels, and the sound from nearby sonar exercises tops 143 decibels.

So what did the Duke study conclude? It showed that humans created the loudest disruptions and boat traffic and sonar were “significant causes of noise in all four bays.” Human-made noise has long been a concern of conservationists who fear that “interactions caused by dolphin-encounter boat tours and other human activities” are disrupting dolphins’ sleeping behaviors and potentially interfering with their hunt for food, since dolphins rest in the bays during the day to ready themselves for the hunt at night.

The first one bites the dust

No longer with us

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Some observers see great potential in a new category of electronic device called hearables, something a little less than a personal sound amplification device, or PSAP, and certainly less than a hearing aid, but designed to help adults understand conversation in noisy places.

Others of us–and I am in this latter category–don’t see much of a future for these products, which are unlikely to work well and unlikely to be attractive to consumers. After all, who wants to be the only one in the room wearing some silly-looking device?

There are several vendors trying to bring these to market but today we learned that the first one of these, Doppler Labs, bit the dust after burning through $51 million of venture capital.

Its product, Here One, only had a two-hour battery life.

One wishes the $51 million had been spent dealing with the root cause of the problem, making restaurants quieter. That’s what’s really needed to help people with hearing loss.

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.

Oysters can hear noise

 

Photo credit: Daniel Schwen licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

and it’s stressing them out! Jean-Charles Massabuau, a marine biologist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, was working on a different project when a diver noted he had never dived in such a noisy spot. Massabuabu wondered if the oysters in that location could hear the noise. After setting up an experiment to see if they would react (they did!) and how (shutting their shells), Massabuabu and team wrote up their findings. Although the oysters had a way to shut out the noise, it comes at a price–they can neither eat nor breathe when their shells are closed.

There is a well-established body of research about ocean sound, but Massabuabu thinks his study results suggest “we should expand our concerns about the impact of noise pollution beyond today’s focus on only dolphins and whales.”

We agree.

Though we must add that while noise pollution may stress out oysters, it’s probably pales in comparison to waiting to be shucked and served with a side of cocktail sauce.

Study: Urban noise worst in poor and minority neighborhoods

Photo credit: Franck Michel licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

That noise is worse in poor and minority communities, especially in cities, is not new. Articles dating back to the sixties spoke to the impacts of noise in poorer communities, not just noises from outside the homes, but noises within the crowded apartments of large, urban cities. It was hypothesized that children whose classrooms were exposed to the noise of nearby elevated trains would suffer cognitively and this would result in poorer reading scores for these children.

Today, however, with modern technology allowing actual measurements to be taken in communities, we can more accurately measure community decibel levels and conduct studies as discussed here that find urban noise pollution worst in poorer, minority areas.

There is now an abundance of studies that have found that noise adversely affects mental and physical health. With better data to identify communities adversely affected by louder sounds, coupled with supportive literature linking noise to adverse mental and physical health problems, one would hope that the authors of the present research would have suggested ways to abate the noise. Sadly, the authors missed that opportunity, stressing instead that further research is required to deal with deleterious effects of noise.

One exception to the results of the research discussed above is a type of noise that tends to be an “equal opportunity offender.” Aircraft noise does not distinguish between poorer and more advantaged communities. Yet, one could say that individuals in more affluent neighborhoods are better organized to combat the overhead noises, though the citizens combating aircraft-related noises would not agree with the authors of this paper who state that “…the most successful U.S. noise reduction efforts have centered on the airline industry.”

The manner in which aircraft noise is measured by the FAA and the decibel level it has established as being intrusive falsely create the impression that far fewer people are affected by aviation noise. True, newer quieter engines are more efficient, but this does not allow one to conclude that aircraft noise is less bothersome. The use of inappropriate determinants to assess impacts, the increase in air traffic, and the new routes that have been deemed by citizens to be more intrusive speak more accurately to the adverse effects of aircraft noise.

In the end, whatever the source of noise or the community affected, one thing is obvious–environmental health researchers should go beyond publishing and seek ways to use their findings to improve the lives of individuals affected by deleterious pollutants such as noise.

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.

Noise can make you deaf

Photo credit: UrbanUrban_ru licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

And the Hindustan Times, knowing this, advises its readers: This Diwali, turn a deaf ear to noise.

Diwali is happening now, so enjoy the sigts–and some of the sounds–and don’t forget to pack some disposable earplugs for yourself, your friends, and family.

How quiet should it be?

Lake Verynwy, Wales, Oct. 2017 | Photo credit: Dr. Daniel Fink

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I recently wrote about measuring sound on an alpine hike, noting that the reading of the ambient noise level, which was in the low 40 decibels, was much quieter than we hear in our urbanized settings. I also noted that noise exposure, as part of the total daily noise dose, is what causes noise-induced hearing loss.

Another important adverse effect of noise–especially nighttime noise–is disruption of human activities, including sleep disruption. A measure of the noise impact on sleep is called the LDN, How quiet is it in a non-urban setting?

I hadn’t thought about this until last night. My wife and I are traveling in a remote part of Wales, staying at a hotel overlooking Lake Vyrnwy, a manmade reservoir supplying water to Liverpool 75 miles away. It took more than an hour of driving on one-lane country roads to get here. (It wasn’t that far, but at 25 mph, it took a while.) I woke up at night and realized how quiet it was: no sirens, no cars, no airplanes, no helicopters, no horn-based alerts when the neighbor’s son comes home from partying at 2 a.m. Curious, I fired up my Faber Sound Meter 4 app on my phone and measured the ambient noise at 33.7 C-weighted decibels. It was so quiet that the sound meter said there wasn’t enough data to report an A-weighted measurement. (I don’t understand the technical details of why this wouldn’t work.) Unweighted decibels measured 35.4.

Why is this important? Sleep disruption causes a stress response, a neuroendocrine response with increases in stress hormones and a parasympathetic nervous system response, with increased blood pressure and pulse. These involuntary physiological responses are what cause the increased morbidity and mortality reported from transportation noise exposure (and are discussed by Hammer, et al., and Basner, et al.). Yes, the experts think the evidence is strong enough to support a statement of causality, not just a statistical association or correlation. Even sounds as low as 32-35 decibels can disrupt sleep, causing microarousals as measured by EEG monitoring.

And now I know the answer to my question.  How quiet should it be? At night the natural sound level should be under 40 decibels, probably under 35 decibels, and not urban nighttime noise levels of 55 to 65 decibels.

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.

It’s about time

New Hampshire police plan to crack down on noisy motorcycles. WCVB reports that Portsmouth, New Hampshire police are getting serious about super loud motorcyles, and they will be “investing in equipment and training needed to recognize if a motorcycle is illegally loud.”  What’s the standard for illegally loud?  Apparently in New Hampshire it’s 92 decibels. We would suggest, however, that the standard should be 83 decibels, which was the noise level limit established by the EPA back when the agency was properly funded and not being attacked from all sides.

Still, whatever the applicable decibel level, at least the Portsmouth police are taking motorcycle noise seriously. How seriously? They plan to set up checkpoints to test motorcycle noise level. Let’s hope this is the start of a nationwide trend.

 

 

Study: Female Fish Attracted To Males Who ‘Sing’

but noise pollution kills the mood, writes Calum Mckinney, Study Finds, and it’s disrupting fish reproduction all across the world. Mckinney introduces us to Eva-Lotta Blom, a doctoral student at University of Gothenburg, who says “that a large part of the problem is that beneath the waves, sound travels much farther and almost five times faster than in the air.” One common source of noise is from ships, as the sound travels far from the source, creating a very noisy situation that would not be tolerated on land. But industrial noise from pile driving and “seismic airguns may be a bigger factor in ocean noise pollution.

And, no surprise, there are absolutely no noise regulations governing our oceans.

So, how does noise interfere with fish reproduction? Blom studied the effect of noise on gobies, and she found that “singing is critical to the male’s reproductive success.” She performed an experiment in which one tank of gobies was nice and quiet while the other was exposed to simulated boat noise. Blom found the results to be remarkable:

In the noisy environment, the fish didn’t mate much, and in the few instances they did, it took them longer. What’s more, half of the eggs in the noisy aquariums died without hatching and those that did hatch took longer to do so.

Even if you don’t care about the mating success of gobies, think about the implications of ocean noise pollution on fish stocks. With oceans already becoming more acidic and warmer, noise could be the final straw.