Noise pollution or environmental noises is the generation of noise that is hazardous to humans or other animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that sound levels below 70dB are not harmful, however; exposure to noise levels beyond 85dB for more than 8 hours may be hazardous to living organisms. The most outdoor noise around the world originates primarily from machines and transportation systems. Inappropriate urban planning could also give rise to noise pollution. Problems associated with noise in an urban environment has existed as far back as ancient Rome. Certain noise levels could contribute cardiovascular problems and increase incidences of coronary diseases in humans. Similarly, it is possible to cause death in animals through altering prey or predator avoidance and detection. Noise can interfere with reproduction in animals and even navigation and could lead to permanent loss of hearing.
Sources of Noise Pollution
In today’s society noise pollution come from various sources including:
- Airports – planes landing and taking off.
- An industrial sound such as fans, mills, and generators.
- Social events including fireworks, firecrackers, and loudspeakers.
- Conflict generated noise such as explosions, and gunfire.
- Traffic sound from cars, buses, pedestrians, and ambulances.
- Construction sounds from heavy machinery in operation and drilling.
- Household sounds from vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, and lawnmowers.
Effects on Humans
Noise pollution could potentially cause various health complications in humans. Some of the common conditions include:
- Hearing loss- this could happen to adults if noise levels reach 140dB and to children if it reaches 120dB.
- Hypertension caused by elevated blood levels for long periods of time.
- Psychological dysfunctions and noise annoyance which are some of the more immediate effects of noise pollution.
- Cardiovascular dysfunctions also occasioned by elevated blood pressure.
- Hearing dysfunctions – this is especially common during child development. In 2001, approximately 12.5% of children in the US aged from 6 to 9 years had a hearing problem in one or both ears.
Effects on Wildlife
The most prominent effect of noise on wild animals has been the reduction of a usable habitat which has led to the increase of extinction risk to endangered species. Noise increases the risk of death in animals as it alters the delicate ecosystem balance in predator or prey detection and avoidance. Noise also affects reproduction among various species such as the Zebra Finches which are known to be less faithful to their partners when exposed to traffic noise. Many oil drillers, seismic survey devices, sonars, and shipping vessels have made oceans noisy as well. Whales are among the marine animals mostly affected because their hearing aids them to orient, communicate and feed. Ocean noise has interfered with their migration routes, reproductive cycles, feeding habits, and even hemorrhage and death.
Social and Economic Costs
According to WHO, one out of every three people in Europe is affected by noise from traffic. Noise pollution results in lack of sleep and could severely affect one's performance during the day and could contribute to cardiovascular diseases which cause additional costs in time and money to the health system. Noise is also known to affect school performance in children.
Avoiding Noise Pollution
People are advised to choose residential areas far away from heavy traffic, and it is advised that one should maintain sound levels of about 35dB in the bedroom during the night and approximately 40dB in the house during the day. People should also consider the prolonged use of earphones and the use of earplugs whenever exposed to high noise levels is advisable.