Tag Archive: The Guardian

Does noise kill thousands every year?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece by Richard Godwin in The Guardian discusses the health dangers of noise exposure, including increased mortality. The dangers of noise are well-known in Europe, where the Environmental Noise Directive requires European Union member states to develop and implement government policies to reduce noise exposure for their citizens. Writes Godwin:

Noise exposure has also been linked with cognitive impairment and behavioural issues in children, as well as the more obvious sleep disturbance and hearing damage. The European Environment Agency blames 10,000 premature deaths, 43,000 hospital admissions and 900,000 cases of hypertension a year in Europe on noise. The most pervasive source is road-traffic noise: 125 million Europeans experience levels greater than 55 decibels – thought to be harmful to health – day, evening and night.

Somehow, this body of knowledge has yet to reach this side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though the overwhelming majority of experts think that the scientific evidence is strong enough to establish causality, not merely a correlation or association of noise and health problems.

I am confident that when the public does learn about the dangers of noise for health–not just causing hearing loss, but also hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and death–Americans will also push their elected officials for laws and regulations to achieve a quieter environment.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

 

Noise is a health hazard worldwide

Photo credit: John Benwell licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article by Matthew Keegan, The Guardian, discusses noise as a health hazard. Members of The Quiet Coalition provided medical and scientific information to the reporter, and I am quoted in the article. I hope you will agree that it is an excellent summary of a complex subject.

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.

Silent retreats, silent ​restaurants, and even silent dating events are​ on the rise.

Ssshhh! How the cult of quiet can change your life.  Of course the headline is overstated and the discussion is superficial, but to the extent that this piece about various silent activities gets notice, I guess it serves a purpose.  One hopes that these silent events aren’t just a new shiny thing, but a longstanding alternative to the always on, always connected, busy world we live and play in.

And a query: Has anyone ever been to a silent retreat, or a silent restaurant, book party, or dating event?  If yes, please tell us if you enjoyed it in the comments.

Paris is celebrating World Car-Free Day today

by banning traffic from half the city, as are a host of other cities, including Brussels, Bogotá, Philadelphia, and Detroit, but not London to The Guardian’s dismay.   Various cities around the world have pledged to close off some streets to car traffic on or around World Car-Free Day, which is September 22nd of each year.  According to The Guardian, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo “promoted the first Journée Sans Voiture a year ago, in response to a rise in air pollution that briefly made the French capital the most polluted city in the world.”  While the mayor was focused on the effect of a car-free environment on air pollution, sound measurements were also taken and show a significant drop in noise pollution:

Airparif, an independent air pollution monitor, said that on Paris’s first car-free day – which covered around a third of the city – nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by up to 40% in some parts. Bruitparif, which measures noise, said sound levels fell by half in the centre.

Imagine being in a city that is half as loud as it would typically be.  Sounds like bliss, no?  Sadly, cities have been butchered to accommodate the car, a mostly unnecessary tool if there is appropriate public transportation and cab service available–not to mention Uber et al.  One hopes that World Car-Free Day takes off and soon becomes World Car-Free Week, followed, one hopes, by the embrace of urban design that puts humans before cars.

Meanwhile, in the UK….

The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke asks, “Who wants a din with their dinner?”  The answer, of course, is no one.  But we don’t always get what we want.  That could change, though.  Cooke reports that UK charity Action on Hearing Loss is stepping up to the plate to take on restaurant noise head on.  Namely, the organization is in the process of “funding the development of a mobile phone app that will enable customers to record decibel levels when they go out to eat.”  Cooke says that “[t]he idea is that, duly named and shamed, the noisiest offenders will perhaps be minded to do something about the pain they seem so determined to inflict on diners and, far worse, their own long-suffering staff.”

Cooke likes the idea, but she doesn’t think it will work.  She notes that “a certain tabloid newspaper” sent reporters armed with decibel recorders to various well-known restaurants and recorded punishingly high decibel readings–two restaurants clocking in at over 105 decibels–but the restaurants are still loud after the tabloid’s exposé.

So is there anything that can be done?  Yes there is.  Cooke writes:

A tolerance for extreme noise is, alas, just another aspect of what we might call the booming 21st-century restaurant industry’s near sadistic approach to customers: the same treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen attitude that brought us restaurants which refuse to take bookings, and maitre d’s who would rather stare at an iPad than meet your eye. * * * All this is beyond infuriating, of course – except we’ve only ourselves to blame. The customer, in these scenarios, might well seem to be a craven, masochistic figure, contemptible in his desperate willingness to be humiliated and kept in line all for the sake of a few small plates and a bottle of slightly filthy organic wine.  But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still king.  If only more of us walked, fingers in ears, things would change faster than you can shout “uproar”.

She’s right.  Until more of us refuse to eat in loud restaurants by walking out after telling management why we are leaving, things won’t change.  But until they do New Yorkers can check out our sister site, Quiet City Maps for reviews on restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in the city based on noise level.  With Quiet City Maps you won’t have to deal with punishing noise over a plate of pasta, cafe au lait, or cocktail again!

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.