Noise Pollution

One woman’s search for a noise-free life

Photo credit: Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In this well-written essay in The Guardian, Emma Beddington describes how noise bothers her and what she does to try to deal with it. Her piece is too distressing to call “delightful,” but I’m sure many could write similar essays about how they try to deal with the noise that bothers them in their everyday lives.

The most common definition of noise is “unwanted sound,” and this definition fits here, but I recently proposed broadening this definition to “noise is unwanted and/orharmful sound.” Even noise levels low enough not to cause auditory damage can be perceived as stressful, and stress is bad for health.

Some noise may be a natural part of urban or rural life. But except, perhaps, for those in certain religious orders, people want quiet and not silence.

And while there are some remedies we can employ to try to quiet the din forcing its way into our homes, reducing noise at its source will always be better than double-paned windows, sound insulation, or noise-cancelling headphones.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Noise pollution in Arizona

This photo of an F-16 Fighting Falcon taking off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona is in the public domain

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This podcast from Arizona Public Media discusses noise pollution in Arizona. The particular issue in the Tucson area is fighter jet noise from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. A-10s are noisy but still quieter than F-16s. Residents are now concerned about the possible stationing of new F-35 jets, which are much louder.

The first half of the podcast is citizens explaining their noise problems in the Tucson area. The second have is an interview with The Quiet Coalition’s Richard Neitzel, PhD, on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Prof. Neitzel is heard at about minute 16 of the podcast, where he discusses the adverse effects of noise on health.

Aircraft noise pollution is well-studied as a health and public health hazard, and is known to cause hypertension and other cardiovascular disease and also interference with learning in schools located beneath flight paths. Do click to listen to the podcast, as it’s well worth your time.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Noise is still bad for health

This photograph of Dr. William H. Stewart is in the public domain

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The World Health Organization has found that noise is bad for health, leading it to develop an Environmental Noise Guidelines for Europe. To prepare for the writing of this document, WHO commissioned systematic reviews of the published scientific evidence about this topic.

Systematic reviews are a well-recognized way of summarizing scientific evidence according to a pre-specified protocol to arrive at evidence-based conclusions.

The UK’s Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs recently commissioned a systematic review of newer scientific evidence about the effects of environmental noise on mental health, well-being, quality of life, cancer, dementia, birth, reproductive outcomes, and cognition.

And guess what? As WHO found, DEFRA also found that a lot of the evidence is not of the highest scientific quality, but there is still sufficient evidence to conclude that environmental noise is bad for health.

We wish health authorities in the U.S. would understand this soon. At The Quiet Coalition, we sometimes circulate draft blog posts among ourselves for input or comment or correction. TQC’s Arline Bronzaft, PhD, a pioneering noise researcher who showed that elevated train noise interfered with schoolchildren learning, offered these additional comments:

EPA stated in 1978 in Noise: A Health Problem, that “[i]t is finally clear that noise is a significant hazard to public health.” We need to remind EPA of this statement, made forty years before the WHO statement. Dr. William H. Stewart, former surgeon general, in 1969 acknowledged we did not have “every link in the chain of causation” but still warned us about dangers of noise.

Thanks to Dr. Bronzaft for reminding us that in the U.S. the health hazards of noise pollution have been known for decades.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Is there any good that may come from this pandemic?

Photo credit: Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Is there anything at all good about the COVID-19 pandemic? There’s an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s hard to find one in this global health and financial storm.

But as people self-quarantine or shelter in place, and road traffic and aircraft traffic decreases, the streets, highways, and skies are noticeably quieter. The air is cleaner, too. And that’s good, even if it reflects a problem.

In these moments of quiet, perhaps we can rediscover the simple pleasures of reading a book, or gardening, or walking in a park (at least 6 feet away from others, to be sure), and think of earlier times when quiet was the norm.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Realtor.com claims to have address-specific noise data

Photo credit: Daniel Frank from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

According to Realtor.com, the most important considerations for a home buyer are price, schools, commute, crime, and noise. The site now claims to have address-specific noise data and other features that allow the prospective home buyer to assess the noise level and noise sources online.

Experienced real estate professionals, and homeowners who have learned the hard way, by experience, advise prospective homebuyers to check out a property at different times of the day, and different days of the week. What is a quiet residential street at mid-day may be a busy thoroughfare on a school morning, or a commuter cut-through during the evening rush hour. A quiet suburban property one day may be under a flight path when the wind direction changes another.

We can’t speak to the accuracy of the noise measurements, or the validity of the information now available online. We’re just happy that more and more attention is being paid to the damaging effects of noise.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

We’re lucky there’s no third-hand sound

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In studying the health effects of cigarette smoke, there’s smoking itself, secondhand or environmental tobacco smoke, and third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke is the residue that secondhand smoke leaves on surfaces such as furniture or clothing. You are exposed to third-hand smoke when you rent a car in which someone has been smoking, or are assigned a hotel room in which previous occupants have smoked.

Many if not most non-smokers find the smell of third-hand smoke unpleasant. And as with secondhand smoke exposure, third-hand smoke exposure has now been shown to convey hazardous chemicals.

Our noise colleague John Drinkwater coined the phrase “Secondhand Sound is the new Secondhand Smoke.™️” In an article about a new definition of noise, I used his insight, pointing out that unwanted noise is like secondhand tobacco smoke, both a nuisance and a health hazard.

We’re lucky that as of now acoustic scientists haven’t found third-hand sound!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Is noise pollution harming your health?

Photo credit: wp paarz licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Is noise pollution harming your health? That’s the question Prof. Richard Neitzel, PhD, asks in this article for the BottomLineInc. Prof. Neitzel is associate chair and associate professor of environmental health sciences and global public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Noise pollution is similar to air pollution, except that both the public and health professionals are generally unaware of the non-auditory health effects of noise. These include cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and increased mortality.

And of course, noise can cause hearing loss. Prof. Neitzel’s research has shown that everyday noise exposure is great enough to cause hearing loss.

Personal hearing protection, i.e., earplugs, can help prevent hearing loss, but making the environment quieter will require government action.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Noise and the increased risk of serious stroke

Photo credit: Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in Science Daily describes a fascinating study done in Barcelona. The study found that patients who lived in noisy areas suffered worse strokes than those who didn’t. Patients who lived in quieter areas near green zones, on the other hand, had less severe strokes.

Only this report and the abstract, published in Environmental Research, are available outside a pay wall, so I can’t comment on the scientific methods used in the study, but Environmental Research is a well regarded, peer-reviewed scientific journal. And the study results are consistent with past experience.

Hypertension is a well-known risk factor for stroke, with higher blood pressures being associated with more severe strokes. The Barcelona report supports other studies, including human, animal, and epidemiology studies, showing that noise exposure increases blood pressure due to autonomic nervous system and hormonal stress responses to noise. I suspect that is the likely explanation for the new study’s findings.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Zillow tracks noisy cities and neighborhoods

Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in Atlanta Agent magazine, directed at the real estate industry, looks at a report by Zillow, a real estate site, that identifies Atlanta’s noisiest neighborhoods.

I wondered if Zillow tracked noise for other cities, too. The answer is yes, Zillow has a report that looks at the noise level of over 900 cities nationwide.

The only problem is that Zillow’s method is to estimate the noise level based on the National Park Service noise maps. That is, Zillow doesn’t measure actual noise levels.

I would suggest that Zillow might want to use the Department of Commerce’s transportation noise maps instead, since transportation noise is a major problem in many parts of the country. Transportation noise includes road traffic noise, aircraft noise, and railroad noise. Zillow adds that a lot of urban noise also comes from ambulances for those living near hospitals, and from sports stadiums.

Real estate professionals advise prospective home buyers to check out their properties at various times of the day. A quiet residential street may become a busy commuter cut-through during the morning rush hour, for example, or the preferred way home for parents picking up children at the end of the school day.

Renting isn’t the same long-term commitment as buying, but renters may also want to check out noise levels before signing a lease.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Let’s hope this atrocity comes to an end soon

Photo credit: Sam Saunders licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The New York Post reports that relatively low cost helicopter service offered by the monsters behind Uber Copter and Blade are drowning Brooklyn residents in noise.  How bad can it be?  Residents in Park Slope say that Thanksgiving traffic was so hellish that the noise “drowned their peaceful neighborhood in a roar so loud it made windows rattle, dogs growl and outdoor conversations inaudible.” Another resident said nine helicopters flew over his home in the span of 90 minutes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, adding that the copters come in “very low,” which makes them even louder.

According to the Post, the reason why Park Slope has been especially hard hit is that the companies are avoiding an all-water route and are purposefully flying over residential areas to save time and fuel.

While residents fume, some local pols are attempting to address the increase in unnecessary helicopter rides. The Post writes that Representatives Nadler, Maloney, and Velazquez have proposed a bill that would ban sightseeing and commuter helicopters, adding that the mayor said he supports the ban.

What a shame the mayor didn’t do something about this when he had the chance.

Here’s hoping that something is done soon to stop Uber Copter and Blade in their infancy.