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Noise Pollution

When one thinks about pollution it is often in terms of solid waste (garbage) and other visual perceptions. Rarely would one think of noise as a pollution.

Noise pollution refers to sounds in the environment that are caused by humans and that threaten the health or welfare of human or animal inhabitants. The most common source of noise pollution by far, the one that affects the most people on the planet, is motor vehicles. Aircraft and industrial machinery are also major sources. Additional noise pollution is contributed by office machines, sirens, power tools, and other equipment.

Noise pollution is not easy to measure, because the very definition of noise depends on the context of the sound and the subjective effect it has on the people hearing it. One person’s idea of exultant, joyful music might be another person’s pure torment.

With extended exposure, noises that reach a decibel level of 85 can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Many common sounds may be louder than you think…

  • A typical conversation occurs at 60 dB – not loud enough to cause damage.
  • A bulldozer that is idling (note that this is idling, not actively bulldozing) is loud enough at 85 dB that it can cause permanent damage after only 1 work day (8 hours).
  • When listening to a personal music system with stock earphones at a maximum volume, the sound generated can reach a level of over 100 dBA, loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day!
  • A clap of thunder from a nearby storm (120 dB) or a gunshot (140-190 dB, depending on weapon), can both cause immediate damage.

There has recently been a marked increase in vehicles equipped with non-standard sound equipment that traverse the streets of Marsh Harbour with sounds that have been measured at levels in excess of 100 dBA. Do these drivers realize they are not only polluting but severely damaging the cochlear nerve, (also known as the acoustic nerve), not only on themselves but those other road users , pedestrians and the like.

I would sincerely hope that when the RBPF enforce traffic violations that this addressed simultaneously as this can be equally as distracting as the cell phone


Keith A. Bishop P.E.

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