Tag Archive: traffic noise

Caterpillars hate noise too

 

Photo credit: Virginia Arboretum licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Erica Tennenhouse, Scientific American, writes about new research that shows traffic noise makes caterpillars’ hearts beat faster. Eventually, the article notes, the caterpillars become desensitized to the noise, but that comes at a price. Andy Davis, conservation physiologist at the University of Georgia, tells Tennenhouse that:

[The] desensitization could be problematic when the caterpillars become adults, Davis says. A rapid stress response is vital for monarch butterflies on their two-month journey to spend winters in Mexico, as they narrowly escape predators and fight wind currents. “What I think is happening [on roadsides] is their stress reactions get overwhelmed when they’re larvae and [could be] impaired when they travel to Mexico,” Davis says.

Every living thing is getting stressed out by our noise.

 

Another adverse effect of traffic noise

By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

New research in Denmark shows that people exercise less when they live near noisy roads. The researchers found that for every 10 decibel increase in traffic noise, people were 5% less likely to exercise.

In general, a few simple habits can have a dramatic effect on health and longevity:

  1. Don’t smoke
  2. Eat fruits and vegetables
  3. Maintain a healthy weight, and
  4. Exercise regularly.

Anything that discourages healthy habits–and traffic noise now seems to fall into this category–is bad for health.

And the reason why traffic noise seems to decrease exercise? It isn’t clear. It may be that traffic noise disrupts sleep, so people exposed to the noise just lack the energy to get moving, but whatever the reason this study provides yet another reason why cities must control traffic noise.

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.

A little self-help can’t hurt

In light of the recent study linking traffic noise to an increased risk of acquiring dementia, this article is a must read: How To Reduce Noise Pollution At Home.

Of course, one would hope that governments would think about how best to limit noise after reading that frightening study.  The medical costs alone should be enough to motivate even the most dispassionate bean counter.  But until they do, we really must take matters into our own hands and try to make our homes as peaceful and noise free as possible.

Link via @QuietMark.

 

Traffic noise is not a “mere annoyance”:

Harmful road traffic noise affects a quarter of Europeans.  Reuters reports on an the European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment of the impact of noise pollution which concluded that, “[h]armful levels of road traffic noise affect one in four people in Europe and raise health risks ranging from sleepless nights to heart disease.”  The EEA’s report noted that noise pollution is “a major environmental health problem in Europe,” putting “what it called the “European soundscape” under threat. 

Traffic noise was the main source of this damaging noise, according to the assessment, with railways, airports and industrial sites adding to the overall noise burden.  The EEA estimated that “environmental noise caused up to 10,000 premature deaths in Europe every year,” adding that “[m]ore than 900,000 cases of hypertension could be traced to noise.”  In response to these health threats, the EEA report calls for “better planning ranging from preserving quiet areas in cities to less noisy tyres on cars.”

Thanks to Antonella Radicchi for the link.

Is Your Noise Making Me Fat?

Photo credit:

Photo credit: Yukari

By Daniel Fink, M.D.

Is your noise making me fat?  That may seem like a silly question to ask, but there is strong scientific evidence that traffic noise causes obesity.  More specifically, increased traffic noise–whether from highways, airplanes, or trains–is strongly correlated with central obesity.  Central obesity (or “truncal obesity”) is in turn linked with increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac disease leading to increased mortality.

Why would noise cause obesity?  The auditory system evolved from vibration sensing mechanisms in primitive organisms which were used to sense predators, or by predators to find food.  Noise perception remains a major warning system, even in mammalian species.  Except for fish, most animals above the phylum Insecta close their eyes when they sleep but cannot close their ears, except for some which swim or dig.  Noise at levels not loud enough to cause hearing loss in humans interferes with sleep, causing a rise in stress hormone levels. These in turn alter carbohydrate and fat metabolism, leading to fat deposition. And that can cause diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn cause heart disease.

A study published in 2015 showed a clear association between noise exposure and central obesity.  Another study published that year showed that noise caused increased heart disease and death.

And 100 million Americans are exposed to noise levels loud enough to cause these problems.

There is probably nothing specific about traffic noise that makes it more likely to cause health problems than any other source of noise, except, perhaps, the factor of unanticipated noise may be important.  It’s just easier to study the effects of traffic noise on humans than asking thousands of people to use personal sound monitors for long periods of time and then collecting and analyzing those data.  Noise is noise.

It’s obviously difficult to measure the non-auditory health impacts of everyday noise exposure–in the streets, in restaurants and stores, at sports events, at concerts–on an individual, but noise has powerful physiologic effects.

So as both noise levels and obesity levels rise in the United States, the answer to the question, “Is YOUR noise making ME fat?” may be “Yes!”

What can we do? For those living near highways, airports, or railroad tracks, double pane windows and wall and attic insulation may provide some protection.  But the best approach to noise is to limit it at its source, which will require political pressure to get laws passed to require quiet, especially nighttime quiet.

After the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded 35 years ago (pdf), noise is largely a local government issue.  So if you want change, you have to speak up for yourself.  One easy step is to look at your local government’s website to see if noise is identified as a constituent issue.  If not, contact your local government representative and ask to speak to him or her about noise problems in your neighborhood or around your workplace.  In addition, an internet search should reveal whether your community has a group that is organized to fight noise in your town (click this link for a map of noise activist and quiet advocacy organizations).  Find out if they are active and go to a meeting to see what they are doing.  If politicians see that an issue is important to constituents, it is in their best interest to address that issue it they want to be re-elected.  If they ignore it, they can be replaced.  An active constituency ensures a responsive politician, at least on the local level.

Noise is omnipresent and insidious.  Because it’s everywhere, people assume that it must be tolerated and cannot be regulated.  But when air pollution became so noticeable and obviously unhealthy that it couldn’t be ignored, government responded with forceful legislation.  As a result, our air is cleaner today than it was in 1970America has gotten noisier and hearing loss in on the increase.  As with air pollution, we need robust government action to regulate noise.  If you care about your health and the health of your family, push back against noise, demand action, and join your neighbors to promote a peaceful, quiet, and healthy environment.

Dr. 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 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.

Study links blood pressure risk to road noise

Grace - New York City - ManhattanResearch from five European countries finds traffic noise is associated with an increase in hypertension cases.  The study at issue was fairly robust, tracking “41,000 people in five different countries for up to nine years.”  Long and short, the study found that “people living in noisy streets, where there were average night-time noise levels of 50 decibels, had a 6% increased risk of developing hypertension compared to those living on quieter streets.”  A 6% increased risk is not insignificant, and that statistic highlights an important fact: noise isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a public health threat.

What’s wrong with a noisy world?

For one very thoughtful answer read Olivia Parker’s article, “‘In Pursuit of Silence’: the film that says we need more quiet in our lives.”

Parker’s article starts with her review of “In the Pursuit of Silence,” a new film about the impact of noise on our lives and the movement to bring silence back into our everyday world.  She finds the film “both calming and jarring to watch.”  It “opens with near-silence,” she states, “four minutes and 33 seconds of it, to be precise, in honour of John Cage’s experimental composition 4’33, in which performers sit in silence for that length of time.”  The film then combines “30-second-long static camera shots of scenes and their sounds – a tree in a field, a petrol station at night, a motorway – with interviews with people involved in the consideration of sound and silence all over the world.”  Parker notes that it is “the first major film to be made about noise pollution – and for those who have been calling for a quiet revolution for years, it’s a much-needed step towards a more sound-balanced world.”

Parker’s review acts as a conversation opener to a deeper exploration of the pervasiveness and dangerousness of noise and the healing power of silence.  The query “how noisy are we now” is followed by a litany of aural abuses, focusing mainly on unavoidable transportation sounds–noise from airplanes, street traffic, and the Tube–but addng that respite cannot be had by ducking into a nearby restaurant for a nosh and some peace.  Parker looks at the consequences of living in a noisy world and they are not good.  She catalogs noise’s negative affect on one’s spirit, mood, ability to learn, and wellbeing.

The focus on our noisy world is followed with a look at the benefits of quiet, examining how it calms, increases productivity, and may even help our brains grow.  Parker concludes by examining how we can get more silence in our lives, highlighting the work of Quiet Mark, a UK company that “awards a badge of “quality” to brands that meet particular sound requirements,” and reviewing eight everyday appliances that have been awarded Quiet Marks.

The world could be a quieter place, we learn, if only all designers considered noise avoidance as important as durability, efficiency, or style.

There’s so much more in this article, so click the link to read it all.

LInk via Antonella Radicchi @firenzesoundmap.

 

Yes, you can put a dollar figure (well, euros) on the impact of noise:

The (VERY) high cost of noise.  Acoustic Bulletin writes about a study published last June by the French Agency Against Noise (Conseil National du Bruit) and the French Environment Agency (ADEME), where the two agencies tried to estimate the total cost of noise pollution in France.  In the end, they determined that the cost was 57.2 billion euros in social costs.  Yes, that billion.  So what was included in this impressive figure?  The study focused on six categories of noise:

  • Impact of traffic noise on health
  • Indirect costs of traffic noise (for example, on real estate)
  • Workplace accidents and hearing loss caused by occupational noise
  • Distraction in the workplace and productivity loss
  • Impact of noise in educational premises
  • Impact of neighbourhood noise

At 18 billion euros, the study shows that the cost of open plan offices is very dear.

Which makes us pause and wonder about the cost of noise pollution is in the United States, which has a population about five times larger than France but no Agency Against Noise.

 

 

Manmade noise is hurting wildlife:

Traffic noise reduces wild owls’ foraging efficiency.  A team of researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan have found that traffic noise reduces the foraging efficiency of wild owls by up to 89%.  Said Futoshi Nakamura, one of the co-authors of the study, “[b]ehavioral changes in acoustic predators can alter the interactions between prey and predators, and possibly have negative consequences on the entire ecosystem.”  Noise is not just a nuisance.  It harms human health and interferes with the balance of nature.  It’s time people and their governments start taking noise impacts seriously.

Something to consider before you buy a house:

Outer Loop noise startles nearby homeowners.

You save money for a deposit, gird yourself as you plunk it down, and, finally, embrace home ownership.  Congratulations!  Sadly, a few years later a stretch of highway that had been planned finally opens and your peaceful home becomes a hellhole.  As the residents of Feyetteville are learning, there are few options, especially for those who purchased homes in neigborhoods that did not predate the planning for the new stretch of road.  Buyer beware.