Tag Archive: noise pollution activist

Meet New York City’s noise warriors,

who are fighting to keep the city quiet(er). Nicole Levy, writing for DNAInfo, introduces us to three New Yorkers who have been working to protect their fellow citizens’ health and well-being.  Levy first profiles Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist, who published a widely cited, ground-breaking study on the effect of subway noise on children’s’ reading ability in 1975.  Today, Bronzaft volunteers her time with GrowNYC, where she takes on the hardest cases: people who have tried everything to stop noise but failed.  Bronzaft “asks the complainant to list all the steps he has taken to mitigate the offending noise, and writes to the apartment’s managing agent or landlord ‘on GrowNYC letterhead,’ she specified, presenting the case and inviting a discussion.”  “They listen,” says Levy, “because if any name in the anti-noise movement carries clout in New York City, it’s Arline Bronzaft.”

Levy next introduces us to Janet McEneaney, the president of Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy group against aviation noise and pollution.  McEneaney became involved in fighting aviation noise when she awoke one morning in 2012 to the sound of roaring jets flying over her home every 60 seconds.  She learned that the noise was “an unintended consequence of a new air traffic control system, The Next Generation Air Transportation System.”  The noise persists, but McEneaney, on learning about the health consequences of noise, took her research to U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who introduced the “Quiet Communities Act of 2015” last fall (the bill remains in committee).

Finally, Levy writes about Tae Hong Park, an associate professor of music composition and technology at NYU, who has created a project he calls Citygram that is  “an audio version of Google maps.”  The first phase of the Citygram project, in which sound recording technology runs on a web browser that anyone with internet connection can use, has been completed.  Park says that phase two will involve gathering information and analyzing patterns, followed by phase three, in which the whole process is automated “so machines can tell us the answers to what sounds are the loudest, what sounds disturb or concern the public the most.”

Reading about Bronzaft, McEneaney, and Park calls to mind this Margaret Mead quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Dear Wall Street, about your commute:

Anti-Noise Activists Want East Hampton Town Airport Shut Down.

In fairness, Wall Street barons have to commute to their Hampton estates by helicopter because the traffic on the Long Island Express Way is horrible (yes, tongue was planted firmly in cheek).  Interestingly this issue is pitting the 1% against the 1%, though, admittedly, the helicopter crowd may more accurately be described as the .001%.  Still, it’s easy to take sides here, because noise is noise is noise is noise.   The airport will never be shutdown, but good luck to the activists.  May they at least get some relief.

One simple accommodation to help those with hearing disabilities:

Dr. Daniel Fink, a leading noise activist, responds to New York Times’s article, “Becoming Disabled,” by offering a simple, effective, and no-cost accommodation to assist those with hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis: turn down the volume of the amplified sound!  As Dr. Fink points out, “[d]isability accommodations benefit everyone, not just those with disabilities.”  Turning down the volume in places of public accommodation will make them more accessible to those with hearing disabilities, provide a quieter environment for everyone present, and could, in fact, protect those not afflicted from joining the ranks of people with hearing injury.

Dr. Fink encourages anyone with a hearing disability whose request for accommodation was ignored to file a complaint with the local agency charged with protecting the rights of the disabled.  In New York City residents can file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights.

 

 

Attention American retailers: Stop playing music in your stores

British retailer to stop playing music in major stores following customer feedback.

Marks & Spencer (M&S), the “UK’s biggest chain store,” is “scrapping its in-store playlists after ten years in a bid to revive its fortunes.”  They claim they aren’t cutting the music to save costs, but a version of this story in The Telegraph notes that “the chain stands to save tens of thousands of pounds a year as a result of turning off so-called ‘piped music.'”

This change wasn’t a spontaneous act of goodwill by M&S executives.  Rather, it appears to have been sparked by the anti-noise group Pipedown, which “protested against piped music in M&S, and recently urged shoppers to convince the retailers’ new CEO, Steve Rowe to mute the muzac.”  Kudos Pipedown!

And for American retailers, consider that killing the music in your stores might please your customers and save you money as well.  Sounds like a win-win.

 

The Institute of Medicine to issue report on accessible and affordable hearing health care today

Dr. Daniel Fink, a leading noise pollution activist, writes about why the IOM Report Should Consider Prevention of Hearing Loss and not just treatment after injury.

Toronto noise activists fight city hall:

Better enforcement needed for noise complaints.

The Toronto Noise Coalition (TNC), unhappy with insufficient enforcement of noise bylaws, released a survey that found that “72% of Torontoians are interested to some degree in the issue of noise pollution.”  The survey, which TNC commissioned, also found that “12% of respondents had filed a noise complaint with the city” and that “two-thirds of complainants were unhappy with the response from the city.”

Part of the reason for the unhappiness, no doubt, is the city’s response to the complaints:

Mark Sraga, of Toronto’s municipal licencing and standards department, says there are 200 officers available to deal with general complaints.  But noise complaints may take a back seat to others in terms of response time.

Sraga added that, “[w]e prioritize, yes.  Life and safety, life and death, those are priority issues.  Noise is not one of those life and safety issues.”  Except that it is.  As Dr. David McKeown, the city’s chief medical officer of heath, notes, “noise causes sleep disturbances, which are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and viral illnesses.”

Long and short, city responses to noise–and not just Toronto–fall short because most city officials don’t see noise as an important issue.  Which means that citizens have to lead this issue and demand that some resources be made available to address noise pollution, which affects quality of life and health.

 

Jersey City’s “Boom Box Ban” lifted

Jersey City council gives final OK to new law targeting noise.

Does this mean Jersey City is going to be an urban hellhole, plagued by eardrum blasting noise 24/7?  No.  The new law, a model ordinance already blessed by the state, lifts the ban on boom boxes, which may have been unenforceable, and, instead, requires anyone playing music outside to make sure that the music “is not “plainly audible” from a distance of 50 feet during the day (25 feet after 10 p.m.).”  The article does not give us the definition of “plainly audible,” nor explain how it will be determined.

An earlier article highlights other changes under the revised ordinance, which includes a ban on the use of power tools on a residential property before 8:00 a.m., a requirement that snow blowers have mufflers or sound reduction devices, and a ban on animals “howling, yelping, barking, squawking, etc.” for more than five minutes without interruption.  But an earlier version of the revised ordinance which would have changed the time that permitted construction could start on weekdays to 8:00 a.m. was punted and the existing 7:00 a.m. start time was retained.  And the revised ordinance has some teeth, as it allows a certified noise-control officer the authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 for violations.

Whether the revised ordinance satisfies all constituents remains to be seen.  Kudos to the Jersey City city council for recognizing the detrimental impact of noise and for attempting to limit its effect on residents and visitors.

 

 

How Loud is Too Loud?

Do you go out to clubs or concerts?  Then this information is for you: How loud is loud?

Plug ’em is a British Tinnitus Association campaign that “aims to encourage wearing earplugs at gigs, festivals, clubs – basically anywhere you’re exposed to potentially dangerous noise levels.”  They simply want to save millions of people from the pain and frustration of tinnitus and other hearing injuries.  How?  By educating the public about the dangers of loud noise, removing the stigma about wearing ear plugs, and encouraging bars and other venues playing loud music to give patrons free ear plugs.

No one is telling you not to go out to enjoy live music.  Protect your ears so you can enjoy live music your entire life.

Maybe this will get peoples’ attention:

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson quits touring for good because of hearing loss.

Yes, nothing like the threat of complete hearing loss to bring home the importance of protecting one’s ears.  Let’s hope that AC/DC considers the damage inflicted on concert goers when they resume touring.

Going to the Superbowl?

Don’t forget your ear plugs! Why?  Because stadium noise is deafening and, unbelievably, encouraged.  The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, actively encourages stadium noise at Arrowhead Stadium, which the franchise boasts is the “loudest in the league.”  In 2013, a “record-setting attempt was planned by Chiefs fans but had support of the organization, which paid $7,500 to fly an adjudicator from Guinness to Kansas City to document the effort.”  They “won” with a record-breaking 137.5 decibels.  And then they did it again in 2014, this time reaching a punishing 142.2 decibels.  On purpose.  Because a lot was at stake: Kansas City Chiefs had to best the Seahawks’ loudest stadium record.  Yes, team fans compete for the glory of having the world’s loudest stadium.

While the various franchises brag about whose fans are the loudest, at least some people recognize that being the ‘world’s loudest stadium’ is a bad idea.  NBC News, reporting on the record attempt, reached out to experts to address the obvious–for some–concern about the effects of extreme noise on hearing:

What [the record-breaking attempt] is most certainly doing is damaging the hearing of every person in attendance. People don’t recognize how much damage they can do to their hearing, says Alison Grimes, an assistant clinical professor of head/neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of audiology at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“People will say, ‘Oh, it was just for 10 minutes,’” Grimes says. “And what I tell my patients is that noise is cumulative over the lifetime. Each time you use a chain saw or ride a motorcycle or go to a stadium to make the sound meter reach the top, it accumulates.”

While the NBC News piece sensibly suggested that fans attending the game purchase over-the-counter ear plugs, it’s likely that most of the fans who were present for this misguided attempt at glory were not protected.  Does that matter?  Will there be long-term consequences for this lapse in judgment?  Sadly, yes.  As Dr. Grimes noted:

“If you’re literally talking about 130 decibels – nobody should ever be exposed to that,” Grimes said. “There isn’t a safe amount of time for 130 decibels. It’s physically painful as well as acoustically damaging.”

Remember, “hair cells in your ear don’t grow back. There is no Rogaine for your inner ear,” warns Grimes. “While hearing aids work really well, there is no substitute for natural hearing.”

Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, believes that the Kansas City organizers missed a golden opportunity to obtain recognition of another world record.  Noting that the record 142.2 dB roar exceeded the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) maximum Permissible Noise Exposure of 140 dB, he suggested that the organizers should have submitted the event for a second world record: the most people whose hearing was permanently damaged at one time (about 80,000 in attendance).*

So skip the stadium and watch the Super Bowl at home.  Your ears will thank you for it.

*Dr. Fink adds that while there is no law protecting the public from the dangers of loud noise, workers have legal protection provided by OSHA.  On the day of the world record event, stadium employees and players and staff of two NFL teams were exposed to noise exceeding the maximum allowable workplace noise exposure level.  Dr. Fink filed a complaint with OSHA but was informed that the statutory limit for reporting a workplace safety violation had passed.