When people talk of pollution today, it is rarely ever about noise pollution. While air and water quality that is effected by physical forms of pollution are often considered much more glaring public health concerns, noise pollution actually is a problem in millions of people’s lives every single day. They just may not know it.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the traditional definition of noise is “unwanted or disturbing sound.” When noise disrupts someone’s every day way of life on a regular basis, it is considered noise pollution. This isn’t about just some college kids having a raucous party until the wee hours of the morning, or a club not shutting the band down before it gets too late—these are constant, annoying sounds that will directly effect someone’s overall health if it persists over an extended period of time.
Health effects due to noise pollution vary greatly, but studies have consistently shown direct links between noise and health. Some of the problems include an ultimate loss of certain tones of hearing, like the ringing in someone’s ears that occurs when they are at a very loud rock concert. This is formally known as Noise Induced Hearing Loss, or NIHL. Constant sounds, like a beeping or humming, can cause stress related illnesses, high blood pressure and loss of sleep, which may lead to a whole host of other health problems. One of the best examples of this is from airports, where the sounds of planes landing and taking off affect all the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. But other forms of subtler noise pollution can wear on people’s health as well, like the drone of traffic on a highway, the noise from industrial equipment at a nearby factory or just the hum of lights inside a building. As the health effects are not as immediate as drinking polluted water, it is tough to tell exactly how noise pollution affects each individual.
The EPA has taken a variety of actions to try and curb noise pollution for the public’s health and welfare. The Office of Noise Abatement and Control, or ONAC, was initially set up to oversee this, passing the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978. However in 1981 the EPA concluded that all of these issues were better handled at the state and local level, allowing individual communities to decide how noise pollution should be regulated. Now if there is a noise pollution issue, individuals can take it to their city or state officials to try to have them do something about it. This can often turn into a long legal fight, which puts strain on the government, the accused noise polluters and the public being effected.
Yet beyond passing laws or taking offenders of noise pollution to court, there are ways to for people to curb noise pollution themselves. By hiring a noise consulting and design company, a business or home can install a wide variety of products to help keep noise out or keep it contained. These products range from sound curtains, enclosures and barrier walls to sound blankets, seals and professional sound proofing that is common in recording studios. In an effort to be less of an imposition on the surrounding communities, large Fortune 500 businesses in particular have been investing in these sound control products and acoustic consulting and design companies. Not only does it make it easier for these large facilities to move close to neighborhoods with these higher noise pollution standards, but it also makes it a better overall work environment for the company’s employees. In other words, everyone wins, quietly.