Tag Archive: noise pollution

As public health concern grows, Pew looks at noise pollution

Photo credit: Mike Seyfang licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

The Pew Trusts—an influential non-profit foundation—is a major player in the media world, so we’re thrilled that two of their writers have recently published articles about noise pollution citing as primary sources several of The Quiet Coalition’s founders, friends, and colleagues.

Pew’s coverage is encouraging, because media attention stimulates awareness of the noise problem that has only grown worse from decades of neglect in this country.

Awareness has also helped stimulate a surge of private investment in America over the past three years in research and development related to hearing loss—with noise being a principle cause of hearing loss. One Boston-area company raised a whopping $228 million dollars in venture financing for a treatment for hearing loss and earlier this month filed for an IPO. That’s a huge change for a sector that has been ignored for several decades.

It’s important to acknowledge and honor the contribution of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for spurring this interest in noise and its effect on health starting in February 2017, when they began publishing on this subject.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Is noise pollution damaging our health?

Photo credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In a word, “Yes!”  This article by Robert Hume,The Irish Examiner, discusses the many ways noise pollution damages health. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible.

The “deniers” may try to sow doubt, as with tobacco smoke causing cancer or climate change being real, but there can no longer be any rational doubt that environmental noise causes hearing loss and non-auditory health effects, including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death. There is still a Flat Earth Society, and the conservative Heartland Institute still claims that there is doubt about cigarette smoking causing lung cancer. But these deniers of reality are clearly on the fringe, avoiding rational consideration of the scientific evidence.

Some noise may be an unavoidable product of modern society, but our world doesn’t have to be as noisy as it is.

The first publication about noise as a public health hazard appeared fifty years ago (pdf). If enough people complain to their elected representatives, many steps can be taken to make the environment quieter. This is already happening in Europe, where noise is recognized as a health hazard.

What are we waiting for in the U.S.?

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 making you fat?

This image is in the public domain in the U.S.

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

The discussion that stress may be linked to obesity has gone on for many years but an internet search of research linking stress to obesity will reveal that stress can indeed increase weight. One could now ask the question whether continuous noise intrusions from railways, roads, and overhead aircraft could be associated with obesity. The answer to this question appears to be “yes” with regard to road noise, “less so” with rail noise and “no” for aircraft noise in the research paper cited in this Environment International article.

While the authors of the paper cited above believe that additional research needs to be conducted, including effects of aircraft noise, to strengthen the data supporting the relationship between noise and obesity, they stress that with obesity being a major public issue worldwide, the existing data suggest that noise needs to be seriously considered as a contributing factor. They also point out that: “obesity could represent one pathway through which transportation noise impacts cardiovascular disease,” recognizing that studies have linked transportation noise to cardiovascular ailments.

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.

A novel approach to addressing noise pollution


Photo credit: The All-Nite Images licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A Brooklyn startup ‘listens in’ on downtown Brooklyn noise. Mary Frost, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, reports that “NYU’s startup Sounds of New York City is developing an acoustic sensor network and installing it on lampposts along Fulton Street.”  The sensors are a “collaboration between Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and local tech startups” that are working together to bring “smart city” technology to downtown Brooklyn.

No doubt the data Sounds of New York City collects will be useful for those who want the city to do more to address noise.  But the startup wants to do more, as it aims to analyze “patterns of noise” across the city and–this is exciting–“maybe track violations through an automated system.”

The best of luck to you Sounds of New York City.

Noise pollution is endangering marine life


Photo credit: Eulinky licensed under CC BY 2.0

and stressing out aquatic animals, writes Jean-Pierre Chigne, Tech Times. Chigne reports on research from the University of Saskatchewan focused on noise pollution’s effect on marine life which concludes “that noise pollution can limit an animal’s ability to process chemical information released after an attack on shoal mates.” Chigne notes that “[f]ish make noises such as chirps, pops, knocks, and grunts using their teeth, swim bladders, or fins,” and noise can interfere with a “fish’s ability to hear the sounds that other fish make.” Noise, he concludes, can “distract and confuse fish, which can potentially cause them death.”

It’s a depressing read, but important.  Do click the first link to read the entire article.

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.

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.

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.