Tag Archive: construction noise

New York City tries to deal (again) with nighttime contruction noise

Photo credit: Tomwsulcer has dedicated this photo to the public domain

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition, and Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

The New York Times reports that the building boom in New York City has been accompanied by a “noise boom,” especially with the increase in overnight work.

A construction boom, given the difficulty of doing construction work in Manhattan, has led to an increase in the number of variances being requested to allow nighttime construction work. Although the New York City Noise Code includes a section pertaining to construction noise rules and regulations, it is the Department of Buildings that oversees the issuance of variances to the Noise Code rules and regulations.

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera understands the adverse health impacts of noise. As reported in the New York Times, she has introduced a bill to the City Council that would limit construction work to no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays, with weekend construction limited to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with some variances allowed for utility and government projects. As to whether this legislation will pass, is a difficult question to answer in a city where developers and the real estate industry have strong political influence.

Ms. Rivera asserted that the Department of Buildings does not have enough employees to review all the permit applications for variances it receives. As a result, it may have issued variances without much consideration about how construction noise would affect those living nearby. There was, sadly, no indication in this story that the Department of Buildings asked for additional staff to more effectively review the applications. The one response from a department spokesman, was that “no one likes construction” but that the after-hours permits were “necessary to a growing city.”  Such a statement appears to be dismissive of the accepted knowledge that noise is hazardous to both mental and physical health.

What is clear in the literature with respect to health and well-being is how dependent our health is on a “good night’s sleep,” something that is certainly being denied to those exposed to the growing New York City nighttime construction noise. Furthermore, a city like New York, proud of its diverse and talented workforce, should also be aware of the fact a loss of sleep can decrease work productivity the next day.

We wish Ms. Rivera success, and a quieter night to all in New York City.

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.

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.

 

It’s not just humans who can’t tolerate construction noise

Photo credit: Diana Silaraja

Pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo are being moved to shelter them from construction noise from a nearby site. Turns out pandas are particularly vulnerable to loud noise because they have ultrasonic hearing. And the Scottish government isn’t screwing around–they insisted on being informed if and when plans to move the pandas were approved by the city council because concerns about the pandas “could raise issues of national importance.”

If only U.S. city governments were so diligent in protecting the hearing of humans exposed to nonstop noise.

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.

Seattle’s construction noise is out of control —

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

and deadly.  and , writing for Crosscut, examine Seattle’s out-of-date noise code and how explosive growth means that “residents are being exposed to some of the most chronically high noise levels from construction of any city in the nation.”  Comparing Seattle’s noise code to 33 other cities, the authors find, among other things, that “only Seattle and Houston allow construction to continue as late as 10 p.m., on any day of the week.”  Construction noise day and night takes its toll, but what exactly is that toll?  Brenowitz and Rubel write that, “[b]eyond the obvious annoyance of noise, chronic exposure has detrimental health effects, including temporary and permanent hearing loss, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke.”  Click the first link to read more.

Thanks to Todd Wildermuth for the link.

OSHA announces hearing-protection technology contest winners

lightbulb_innovation

Four inventors have been recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration for their innovations in developing technology intended to combat work-related hearing loss.  The winning designs include a custom-fitted earpiece that offered workers protection, wearable sensor technology that detects noise levels, and an interchangeable decorative piece that attaches to silicone earplugs.

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Well, it can’t hurt:

New Bill Seeks to Make it Easier to Catch Developers Breaking Noise Rules.  DNAinfo reports that “[a] new City Council bill is putting pressure on developers behind noisy construction sites by making information about their mitigation plans more accessible to neighbors.”  Long and short, the new bill “would require the Department of Environmental Protection to post noise mitigation plans for construction sites on its website, and would require developers to post the plans on construction fences in clear view.”  Ok, that could help, but we couldn’t help noticing that the bill text doesn’t include penalties for violation (although that must surely be provided elsewhere).

Construction in the city is endless.  Every handful of dirt seems to have a construction crew attempting to put highrise on it. Anyone living near one of these sites knows that their quality of life takes a hit.  Recently Community Board 1 in Manhattan held a construction forum to address common complaints.  Click this link to read the responses to these complaints from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Buildings.

 

 

What is America’s most common workplace injury?

Hearing loss.  Zhai Yun Tan, Kaiser Health News, writing for PBS News Hour, examines hearing loss, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as “the most common work-related injury with approximately 22 million workers exposed annually to hazardous levels of occupational noise.”  ‘[I]n an effort to reduce these numbers,” she writes, “the Labor Department launched a challenge earlier this summer called ‘Hear and Now,’ in which it is soliciting pitches for innovative ideas and technology to better alert workers of hazardous noise levels.”

Critics have countered that technology to address the problem already exists.  The real problem, they claim, is that the maximum noise exposure level and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are outdated.  Among other things, the OSHA regulations “use sound level limits that don’t factor in the noise exposures that occur beyond the workplace — at restaurants, concerts and sporting venues, for instance — that can add to workers’ cumulative risks of harm.”  OSHA officials offered that “the agency will issue a request for information later this year about current regulations at construction sites to figure out if more stringent protections are needed and how companies are complying,” but Tan notes that “[a] similar call for information was issued in 2002, but no changes resulted from the action.”

Tan suggests that employers will have to assume more responsibility in educating workers, as some workers do not use hearing protection at work because they are not aware of the risk.  Click the link above to learn more, including Tan’s report about Jeff Ammon, a former construction worker who can no longer work due to hearing loss and hyperacusis, a condition marked by sensitivity to environmental noise.

 

 

Noise keeps you up at night?

The Audiophiliac has the cure.  And his short answer is this: get some disposable earplugs.   Not exactly earth shattering.  Although The Audiophiliac’s review of options may be useful, it is, after all, a short answer for a short-term remedy.  Perhaps the author should consider the longer-term remedy and contact his city councilperson demanding real noise regulation in New York City.  Just a thought.

Location ‘no longer top priority’ for Brisbane’s first home buyers.

So what is the most important factor for first home buyers looking at apartments?  Noise.

Sure, noise is detrimental to health, but is there a health benefit to silence?

Short answer?  Maybe.

To learn more about the early research on silence and health, read How Prolonged Exposure to Sweet, Blessed Silence Benefits the Brain.