When there is a lot of noise in the environment, it constitutes what is known as noise pollution. This can be caused due to various sources - street chaos, traffic, public transport places, playgrounds and parks, shopping malls, workplaces, etc. One of its greatest sources are airports.
Sound is measured in a unit known as decibels. Though there is no fixed particular decibel limit to decide when sound becomes noise, it is understood that a continuously high decibel limit will constitute noise pollution. Some areas do designate their own sound limits, which of course vary from one legislation to another. In the United States, most states have a sound limit of 65 dB in the daytime and 55 dB in the nighttime, applicable to the streets. Anyone crossing this limit would be causing noise pollution.
However, all these designated limits are too ambiguous, because most appliances used in factories, as well in the household can cause an increase in sound beyond the prescribed limits. The following are some of the sources of noise pollution:
- Appliances in homes such as mixer grinders, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, etc., together cause a cumulative sound of about 87 dB. This is above the sound limits in most areas. If loudspeakers, television sets, and music systems are used at high volumes, then a lot of pollution is created.
- Small factories using single unit machines would cause a sound of about 98 dB and above. The sound will definitely go higher as the number of machines increase.
- Airplanes cause the highest noise (aroun 150 dB). Road vehicles are also great contributors of noise pollution, such as trucks, buses, tractors, SUVs, and even motorcycles and most cars.
- Then, there are lots of environmental sources of noise pollution that cannot be ignored. Continuous ones are the most distressing. Noise coming from sources, such as dripping taps and ticking of clocks can contribute to environmental noise pollution.
The effects of this type of pollution can take a severe toll on human health in the long run, as they will not become apparent immediately, but could latter form many repercussions later. The following is a list of the kinds of effects on human health after continuous exposure for months and even years.
- The most immediate effect is a deterioration of mental health. As an example, people who are living too close to airports will probably be quite jumpy. Continuous noise can create panic episodes in a person, and can even increase frustration levels. Also, noise pollution is a big deterrent in focusing the mind to a particular task. Over time, the brain may just lose its capacity to concentrate on things.
- Another immediate effect is deterioration of the ability to hear things clearly. Even on a short-term basis, noise pollution can cause temporary deafness. But if this continues for a long period of time, there's a danger that the person might go stone deaf.
- Noise pollution also takes a toll on the heart. It is observed that the rate at which heart pumps blood increases when there is a constant stimulus of high intensity sound. This could lead to side-effects like elevated heartbeat frequencies, palpitations, breathlessness, etc., which may even culminate into seizures.
- It can cause dilation in the pupils of the eye, which could interfere in ocular health in the later stages of life.
- It is also known to increase digestive spasms. This could be the precursor of chronic gastrointestinal problems.
People are making efforts for preventing noise pollution, but we must appreciate the difficulty of the task. Unless and until we take care of ourselves, this problem will always loom large. Here are some ways by which we can make individual efforts at reducing noise pollution for ourselves and for others.
- We must constantly check up on the appliances that we use at home. Most of them have rubber insulations that act for soundproofing. But over time, this insulation may wear out resulting into noise pollution. Keep track of the appliances, which need maintenance, and replace insulations if needed.
- Growing trees is a very significant way by which roadside noise can be curtailed. Trees act as buffers for absorbing the sound that is produced on the streets, and hence, reduce noise pollution. That is the reason why roads with trees on both sides seem to be more silent and peaceful. Grow plants around your house if you can. It will protect you from the noise on the streets. This will also help if you stay close to an airport.
- Do not honk horns in your vehicles unless it is absolutely necessary. We all know how easily traffic sound limits are trespassed when there is a traffic jam. We might be desperate to get through, but honking horns will not solve any issues. It will only add to the sound pollution.
- If you are working in a factory that has a lot of noise issues, make it a point to wear earplugs and muffs. If you are the owner of the factory, provide these things to your workers.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.