Industry growth, an increasing number of vehicles and constant information overload causes a significant and underestimated problem: noise pollution. The term noise pollution is used to define unwanted sounds that are released into the environment. Various research studies have proven that noise pollution imposes a number of negative impacts on mental and physical health. To understand the reasons behind these health conditions, people should consider the effects that are usually caused by noise pollution.
In a modern megalopolis, noise pollution arises from many sources, such as traffic, barking dogs, noisy neighbors, aircraft, verbal advertising in streets, and many other environmental factors merging into one sound wall. A person may get used to perceiving these sounds and ignore them, but on a subconscious level, such constant noise exposure has a significant effect. Noise pollution is measured in decibels, and its intensity and duration determines the impact on an individual’s health.
One of the most obvious negative consequences of prolonged exposure to noise is hearing loss. Studies show that people who have been regularly exposed to intense noise, due to the nature of their work, have decreased hearing sensibility compared to those who have worked in more quiet conditions. The most disturbing source of noise pollution stems from traffic (Healthy Hearing). Elevated sound levels cause changes in the structure of the inner ear, which results in irreversible hearing loss.
Another negative effect caused by noise pollution is heightened irritability and sensitivity. Different sounds can have different impacts on a person; thus, one can get annoyed with the sound of water dripping from a faucet or car horns blowing, but relax to the sounds of falling rain. Natural sounds are much less irritating than artificial sounds, such as traffic noise. However, natural sounds also create a sound wall effect as in the case of a waterfall or the wind blowing. In contrast, living near the motorway can lead to frustration and can seriously upset human nerves.
Speech and sleep interference is another issue that arises from noise pollution. It can be difficult to talk while standing on a busy street, and in this case, people often have to shout to be heard. Therefore, hearing and interpreting each other becomes an issue. The noise of a big city is one of the most popular reasons for sleep disorders. High levels of noise often wake people in the middle of the night and hinder them while trying to fall asleep again, thus breaking bio-rhythms and causing weakness and drowsiness during the next day.
Decreased work performance should also be mentioned in the list of negative impacts caused by noise pollution. High levels of noise can cause inaccuracy and inattentiveness, which can result in decreased productivity and additional stress. This is a crucial point for people whose workplaces are potentially dangerous, such as construction sites or factories. A misheard order or instruction, or the lack of concentration in such workplaces can lead to severe consequences.
It can be observed that noise pollution is a serious, though underestimated problem for the human population. It causes a number of negative effects both on health and the effectiveness of performing actions. Among the most obvious and significant negative effects are hearing loss, increased irritability, speech and sleep disturbances, and decreased work performance. Even if a person becomes accustomed to constant noise and thinks that it does not affect them, changes still occur. Every individual, including scientific and healthcare organizations, should seek ways to minimize the aforementioned impacts and reduce their exposure to noise pollution.
1. “Reasons for Hearing Loss: Noise Pollution Levels.” Healthy Hearing. N.p., 5 July 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://www.healthyhearing.com/content/articles/Hearing-loss/Causes/47496-Noise-pollution-hearing-loss>.
2. “Noise Effects Handbook.” NPC Library. National Association of Noise Control Officials, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nonoise.org/library/handbook/handbook.htm>.
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Essay on Noise Pollution: Sources, Effects, Prevention and Control of Noise Pollution!
The word ‘Noise’ is derived from the Latin word ‘nausea’ which means feeling of sickness at the stomach with an urge to vomit. The term noise may be defined in a number of ways.
(i) In acoustic, noise is defined as unwanted, unpleasant and annoying sound.
(ii) Noise is defined as unwanted, unpleasant, disagreeable sound that causes discomfort.
(iii) Noise is defined as the wrong sound, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(iv) Noise is the sound incidental to our civilization and is without agreeable musical quality.
It is seen that a particular sound which is musical to someone, may be noise to another. However, if the sound is loud and it prolongs for a longer period of time, it becomes noise for all. (The technological advancements such steam engines, diesel engines, jet engines, industrial machinery, traffic noise of moving trucks, buses, cars, and automobiles with blow horns, etc. are polluting the atmosphere with their continuous noise.
So, now a day’s noise is considered as a component of environmental pollution having a potential to cause hazards to human health and communication.) It may be noted that sound is a pure tone, harmonically related, occurring at regular intervals and producing meaning full communication whereas noise is a complex mixture of a number of pure tones of varying frequencies and amplitudes.
Noise pollution may be defined in a number of ways:
(i) According to Odum, noise pollution is the unwanted sound dumped into environment without regard to the adverse effect it may have.
(ii) Noise pollution may be defined as any unwanted electromagnetic signal (sound) that produces a jarring or displeasing effect and which interferes with human communication, comfort and health.
(iii) According to Ambast (1988), noise pollution is caused when the loudness of the sound becomes irritating or unbearable.
(iv) Noise pollution also refers to perturbations which interfere in the communication systems.
The unit of sound intensity is decibel (dB). The sound intensity from 0 to 100 dB is pleasant but when the sound intensity exceeds 120 dB, it causes noise. Sound intensity of 130 dB is the upper limit of the threshold of hearing and beyond this, is the threshold of pain which may cause damage to car and leading to hearing impairment. So, sound of more than 130 dB causes noise pollution.
1. Sources of Noise Pollution:
Noise may originate either from natural sources or from anthropogenic activities. The natural sources of noise include thunder, cyclone, roaring of sea, etc. The manmade noise are mechanized automobiles, industries, trains, aero planes, social functions etc. It may be noted that the manmade noise is now doubling after every decade.
Broadly speaking, the noise may be classified into:
(1) Transport noise;
(2) Industrial noise; and
(3) Neighborhood noise.
1. Transport noise:
The main threat of noise comes from transport sector. The transport noise includes road traffic noise, rail traffic noise and aircraft noise.
(a) Road traffic noise:
The chief causes of road traffic noise are the number of road vehicles and their high traffic speed. Faster moving vehicles produce high noise from their gear box, exhaust system, vibrations from their body, etc.
(b) Rail traffic noise:
The noise from rail traffic is comparatively lower than that from road traffic. Introduction of diesel engines or electrical engines has reduced the intensity of rail traffic noise which was previously shown by steam engine. Besides use of welded tracks and improved coach suspension have contributed to the reduction in railways noise,
(c) Aircraft noise:
Larger and faster aircrafts produce high noise intermittently during takeoff, landing and during flight. Noise generates from compressor and turbine and near jet exhaust. Jet engines create most noise around a radius of 16 km. Sonic boom is an important aspect of aircraft noise. Sonic boom occurs when an aircraft flies supersonically overhead.
(2) Industrial noise:
The different machines of numerous industries, factories and mills produce a lot of high intensity sounds causing noise pollution. Some industrial processes like weaning, ship building, boiler making, pressing and blasting operations are more nosier than others.
The operations in pneumatic drills, milling machines, cutters, printing press with an upward, downward and sideways movement and vibrations, cause lowering of hearing capacity to a large extent.
The noise pollution is further magnified due to the installation of industries in compact places. For example, the workers near the heavy industrial blowers in steel industry are exposed to sound of 112dB for eight hours and hence suffer from occupational pollution. Some typical industrial noise levels are given in table 10.1.
Table 10.1: Some Typical Industrial Noise Levels
Noise level (dB)
1. Steel plant riveting
2. Oxygen torch
3. Boiler maker’s shop
4. Textile loom
5. Circular saw
6. Farm tractor
7. News paper press
8. Bench lathe
9. Milling machine
10. High speed drill
11. Key Press machine
12. Super market
3. Neighborhood noise:
This type of noise includes antisocial activities of neighbors like using of loud TV, stereo, radio sets, jazz music, fireworks parties, playing of children, barking of dogs, neighborhood brawls out of intoxication and industrial neighborhood noise etc. The machines used in house construction like concrete mixes, vibrators, bulldozers, heavy diesel lorry, building demolition activities also add to the noise pollution.
The central pollution board (India) has prescribed permissible sound levels for cities, divided into four zones as given in table 10.2.
Table 10.2: Permissible Sound Levels As Prescribed By Central Pollution Control Board.
Sensitive areas upto 100 meter around hospitals educational institutions, courts etc.
2. Effects of Noise Pollution:
Noise is air-borne mechanical energy striking the human eardrum. A sound of 65dB is the noise level for conversation heart at a distance of one meter. A sound of 125dB (A) gives the sensation of pain in the ear and 150dB (A) might kill a human being. If a noise of 90dB in the mid-frequency range reaches the ear for more than few minutes, then the sensitivity of the ear is reduced.
The various effects of noise pollution on human beings may be classified in to two categories:
(1) Auditory effects; and
(2) Non-auditory effects.
1. Auditory effects:
The impairing of hearing which may cause immediate auditory fatigue finally leading to deafness is known as auditory effects.
2. Non-auditory effects:
These effects include interference with speech communication, annoyance leading to ill-temper, bickering, mental disorientation, violent behavior and a series of health hazards.
In addition to serious loss of hearing, noise also causes pathological (or psychological), non-pathological (or physiological) and vibrational disorders.
(a) Pathological disorder:
(i) Exposure to high frequencies or ultrasonic sound above the audible range damages inner ear and induces nausea and dizziness in man.
(ii) Exposure to mid-audible frequency affects brain and nervous system having significant impact on thinking and coordination of limbs.
(iii) Moderate vibration can lead to pain, numbness and cyanosis (blue coloration) of Fingers.
(iv) Severe vibration results in damage to bones and joints in the hands with swelling and stiffness.
(v) Exposure to low frequency noise can reduce heart beat, variation in blood pressure and breathing difficulties.
(b) Non-pathological disorders:
These disorders are mainly seen in industries and other establishments which result in lower efficiency, reduced work rate, increased absenteeism and a higher potential for accidents and injuries. Noise also disturbs sound sleep of old people. Children exposed to excessive noise show signs of behavioral disorder which in later age manifest themselves in destructive nature.
(c) Vibration (physical vibration) disorder and Reynaud’s phenomenon:
(i) Noise from constant vibrations of hand tools like the hammer or drilling instrument creates ‘dead hands’ or ‘white fingers’ which is known as Reynaud’s phenomenon.
(ii) Noise from moderate vibrations causes pain, numbness, and cyanosis.
(iii) Noise from severe vibrations causes damage to bones, joints with swelling and stiffness.
Some of the important effects of noise pollution are outlined as given below:
1. It causes contraction of blood vessels, makes the skin pale leads to excessive secretion of adrenaline hormone into blood thereby inducing high blood pressure.
2. It may cause damage to heart, brain, kidney and liver.
3. It induces contraction of muscles which ultimately leads to nervous breakdown, tension and even insanity.
4. It induces anxiety, stress and fright which in turn causes increased heart beat, constriction of blood vessels, dilation of pupil of eye etc. by modulating the hormone content in blood.
5. It damages some part of auditory system thereby causing the impairment of hearing.
6. Excessive noise causes thickening of blood and changes in breathing amplitude.
7. It is responsible for disturbing the entire biological system. For example, the internal wreckage caused by the roar of a jet engine includes gastric ulcer and thymus gland atrophy.
8. It causes irritation, dissatisfaction, disinterest and affects work efficiency.
9. Sudden and explosive sounds cause cracks in buildings and breaking of window doors and glasses.
10. It causes chronic headache and irritability thereby reducing work efficiency.
11. It brings about changes in the behavioral aptitude of birds and animals. For example, noise pollution discourages the annual visit of migratory birds to Alipore Zoo of Kolkata.
12. It interferes with communication systems. For example, sometimes it becomes necessary to raise the volume of our TV set or radio to overcome the impact of external noise.
The detrimental effects of noise with different intensity on human beings are shown in Table 10.3.
Permissible Noise Levels (Control):
We have already discussed the sources of noise of different intensity and their hazardous impact on living organisms particularly on man. Still we work and live in the environment where the noise level is not optimum. Thus it is rightly told by Robert Koch that noise pollution is a slow agent of death. The peoples working in areas where the intensity of noise is comparatively higher suffer from progressive hearing loss, physiological (health) and psychological hazards including tension. The maximum permissible noise levels at different situations are summarised in Table 10.4.
3. Prevention and Control of Noise Pollution:
Noise produced from different sources has created a catastrophe to the entire living world specially to man. Hence, necessary steps should be taken to minimise the level of noise thereby protecting the living world from its detrimental effects.
Few methods of minimising noise pollution are discussed below:
(1) Industrial noise pollution control:
The level of noise pollution due to industries can be lowered down by adopting the following techniques:
(a) Use of improved technique:
The noise at source can be reduced by replacing noise producing machines with suitable improved technique. For example, the noise from exhaust fans can be decreased either by increasing the number of blades or by decreasing the rotational speed.
(b) Sound proofing:
An insulating material may be applied on the noise producing machinery and equipment’s which causes sound proofing.
(c) Transmission control:
The level of noise can be minimised by covering the walls of the room by sound absorber (e.g. acoustic tiles), introducing gaskets around the doors and windows, sealing all the outlets and putting carpet, drapery and acoustic materials inside the room.
(d) Creation of green vegetation cover:
Plants and trees should be planted along highways, streets and industrial areas because the vegetation covers absorb and dissipate sound energy and acts as a buffer zone.
(e) Using protective devices:
The use of ear plugs or ear muffs or even cotton balls by the worker in the industry can protect them from hazardous effects of noise pollution.
(f) Operations in open space:
Noisy industrial operations should be conducted at open spaces far off from residential areas.
(g) Use of Building codes:
Certain codes should be enforced which require sound proofing in the construction of industries, buildings and apartments.
2. Community noise control:
The community noise control includes minimization of noise from air traffic, transport system, building constructions etc. The noises from the above sources can be lowered by adopting the following procedures:
(a) The air traffic noise can be reduced either by suitable technique or by zoning the area around the airport and not allowing for the construction of houses or industries within 10 meters of the airport.
(b) The road traffic noise includes tyre noise, engine intake noise, exhaust noise, aerodynamic noise, noise from blowing of horns etc. Such type of noise pollution can be controlled by incorporating silencers in vehicles, maintaining speed limit prescribed for the vehicle and banning air horns.
(c) The loudspeakers, radio and music system should be operated at threshold intensity so that the noise level should not be hazardous to living organisms.
(d) Public awareness should be created to educate the common man about the harmful effects of noise pollution, through radio, television, newspapers etc.
(e) The noise can be reduced by introduction of new regulations which mainly include lowering speed limits and designing for non-stop operation.
(f) Stringent laws should be implemented to control noise pollution. For example Motor Vehicle Act of India provides restrictions on heavy vehicles using double sirens while passing through populated areas.
(g) The laying of ballast less tracks reduces the noise level due to railways.
(h) The noise pollution can best be controlled by promoting education and research.