Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Noise Pollution

When we refer to loud noises as “deafening,” we are not just using a figure of speech. Noise is now recognized as a form of pollution that can be hazardous to human health. Our ears were simply not made to withstand constant assaults from jet planes, amplified rock music, power lawnmowers, construction sites, and household appliances.

Health Danger of Noise Pollution
Besides developing hearing problems, persons exposed to noise pollution may experience fatigue, insomnia, irritability, more accidents, and learning difficulties. Excessive noise producers’ bodily changes, including increased heart rate, digestive spasms, blood vessel constriction, and pupil dilation. In animal studies, continual noise has damage the heart, brain, liver, reproductive system, and immunological system. Noise may also be a factor in stress related disorders, including high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, weight loss, and emotional disturbances.

Recent research has also found a connection between noise and socially undesirable behavior. In one experiment, subject behaved more aggressively after being exposed to noise that they could not escape or control.

Measuring and Controlling Noise Pollution
The loudness of a sound is measured the human ear can stand. Zero decides is the lowest level of sound that a young, healthy human ear can detect. Noises at 130 decibels and higher can cause pain. Prolonged exposure to sounds at 80 decibels (and above) can destroy the delicate receptor cells of the cochlea (the spiral shaped part of the inner ear containing the auditory nerve endings) and cause permanent hearing loss.

Control of noise pollution is difficult. European countries have instituted a number of anti noise laws that appear to be successful at curbing harmful noise, and the Japanese carefully monitor the noise levels at busy interceptions in urban areas. But in the United States, where average noise levels have increased greatly in the last twenty years, few communities have dealt with the problem successfully. Industries have done better in protecting employees: Workers in high noise occupations are outfitted with special headgear, and soundproofing and wise architectural planning help to separate office workers from noisy machinery. Nevertheless, the problem is a long way from being completely solved, and insurance companies continue to pay out millions of dollars to worker who have gone deaf from exposure to excessive noise on the job.

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