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Causes & Prevention of Noise Pollution

Updated: May 5

using a tool to monitor sound on factory site

Noise pollution is a bi-product of many different activities such as transportation, manufacturing and music. It can have a negative impact on human and animal health so there are various strategies used in order to reducing these negative impacts.


 

In this Article:



 

What is Noise Pollution?


Also known as sound pollution, noise pollution is the act of creating excess noise that can cause negative effects on people and the environment. The effects of noise pollution can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing such as hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).


Some of the main sources of Noise in the modern include:

Transport Systems

Construction Projects

Residential Noise

Road Traffic

Building Work

Music

Trains & Rail Systems

Demolition

Pets

Air Traffic

Maintenance & Refurbishments

DIY Work


 

5 Effects of Noise Pollution


Noise pollution can have many different effects on health and a negative impact on the surrounding environment. It is common for the negative health issues to take time to develop which can make the monitoring of noise pollution more difficult as people can be exposed to harmful noise over a long period of time before the effects become apparent.


Here are some of the negative effects of noise pollution:


Effects on Human Health


Hearing loss

Exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss in some cases, in addition to this exposure to medium/loud noises can also cause hearing loss when exposed to it for a prolonged period of time.


Physical Health Impacts

Some studies have showed that exposure to noise over a prolonged period of time have increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes.


Mental Health

Noise pollution has been shown to increase stress levels in humans and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In some cases noise pollution can cause sleep loss and insomnia.


Cognitive Impairments

Excessive noise can reduce academic performance and hinder children's memory. In adults it has been found that increased noise can result in decreased focus and productivity.


Quality of Life

Peoples quality of life can be reduced when exposed to excessive noise pollution. This reduces peoples ability to relax and socialise and can lead to increased feelings of aggression and annoyance.


How Noise Pollution Effects the Environment


Wildlife

Excessive noise pollution disrupts animal interactions which can lead to issues with mating and communication. Also predator/pray interactions are effected by noise as many animals use sound as a method of attack or evasion.


Relocation

Many animals may have to leave their natural ecosystem if noise pollution becomes too severe. This can cause knock on effects as many animals have symbiotic relationships, for example some plants rely on bird pollination which can be lost in the event that the birds migrate away from the noise.


Marine Life

Noise pollution from marine vessels can cause disruption to marine life, this is because many of these animals use echolocation for communication and feeding which is interrupted by engine noise and sonar systems.


 

man working in car production factory

Industrial Activities


Industrial activity such as manufacturing and fabrication are some of the common forms of noise pollution and without proper control measures in place there can be negative impact on workers and nearby communities.


Here are some examples of industrial activities that can cause noise pollution:


  • Machinery Large equipment such as generators and heavy vehicles are very common in industrial settings. Using this equipment can produce a lot of noise as a biproduct.

  • Manufacturing Processes Some processes such as steel manufacturing and fabrication use very loud equipment which can caused increased noise levels.

  • Air Conditioning Systems Ventilation and air conditioning systems are some of the most common types of equipment found in industrial activities and contribute to loud noise levels due to their use of large fans and compressors

  • Transportation Moving goods around sites is a vital part of any industrial operation, the equipment and vehicles used in this work often require large engines which can contribute to high noise levels.


 

Traffic and Transportation


Noise from traffic and transportation can be a serious concern in residential areas and affects people worldwide on a daily basis. Roads, railways and air traffic all contribute to noise pollution with road traffic being the largest contributor.


Here are some examples of sources of noise pollution in traffic and transportation:


  • Road Traffic Road traffic noise is caused by motor vehicles, usually caused by the running sound of engines. High traffic areas with congestion issues usually face the highest noise levels and most disturbance to residential areas.

  • Rail Systems Trains also generate lots of noise from their engines although many modern trains are electric which have dramatically reduced decibel levels. Although modern trains have quieter engines, the noise generated from tracks and other moving parts still cause noise pollution issues.

  • Air Traffic Planes can create significant noise levels that are most severe when taking off and landing, this can cause a lot of disturbance for those living near airports.

  • Boats & Water Transport Similar to the other types of traffic, boats can generate a lot of engine noise causing disturbances in coastal and riverside communities.


 

whacker plate making noise on construction site

Construction Sites


Construction can have a large impact on noise levels and have become a more important health concern over the past few years. There are many different pieces of equipment used in modern construction, the majority of which result in increased noise pollution that may have detrimental effects to those working on site and those living in the surrounding areas.


Here are a few examples of noise generated through construction activity:


  • Heavy Plant/Machinery Excavators, cranes and concrete mixers can all be sources of loud noise, there are dozens of other different types of plant that is used in modern construction which generate significant noise levels when in operation.

  • Tools Modern power tools like drills and breakers are common across all construction sites and can be a source of excessive noise.

  • Transportation & Vehicles Moving equipment and materials on site often requires heavy duty machinery that has create high noise levels as a biproduct.

  • Construction Processes Some activities such as demolition and excavation works can be very loud and last for prolonged periods of time.


 


10 Ways to Reduce Noise Pollution


There are many different applications for noise reduction technologies and are used in almost every modern appliance. Reducing noise pollution is one of the main concerns in many modern workplaces, this is to help reduce the risk of injury to staff and keep local people from being disturbed.


These are a few of the most common methods of noise reduction:


1. Soundproofing Materials

Modern soundproofing materials are designed to absorb sound and can be used in walls, floors and ceilings. Some soundproofing materials are made in panel form making them easier to install whilst others come in more malleable forms.


2. Noise Barriers

Barriers are commonly used near roads and railways in order to provide some protection from excessive noise pollution. These barriers can reflect or absorb noise depending on the application and are made from many different materials such as wood, metal or concrete.


3. Acoustic Plaster

There are types of plaster available that are designed specifically to absorb and reflect sound which are particularly convenient for use in existing buildings such as schools or apartments.


4. Vegetation

Trees and plants can be a great way to reduce noise pollution whilst also providing some benefit for the local wildlife. This has become a preferred method of isolating noise in modern design.


5. Maintenance of Equipment

Having equipment properly serviced and maintained can drastically reduce the amount of sound emitted. Regular service plans help keep parts from wearing and can increase the lifespan of machinery as well as helping avoid the need for breakdowns and repair.


6. Soundproof Flooring

Modern buildings can be installed with a layer of sound absorbing material beneath the floor surface, this allows sound to be absorbed through the floor and can help to reduce vibration.


7. Zoning and Layout

In areas where loud noise is present, a zone around the noise can be allocated to ensure people don't enter this area. This is used in factory where loud machinery present, workers and walkways are located in a way to avoid being in close proximity of the running machinery.


8. Active Noise Control

Noise Cancelling technologies can be used to generate sound waves that counteract the incoming noise. This technology is used commonly in HVAC systems to counteract the sound of fans.


9. Converting Existing Noise Guards

Many machines have safety guards that can be converted to provide additional acoustic protection whilst still providing safety benefits. This can be a cost effective option for a lot of systems as the parts are low cost and installation isn't complicated.


10. Road Surfaces

Modern tarmac road surfaces can be made from noise reducing aggregates which absorb sound generated from vehicle tyres, more than traditional types of tarmac.


 

strong wind causing noise on coast

Natural Causes of Noise Pollution


Although most forms of harmful noise are produced from vehicles and man-made machinery there are natural causes of noise that should be considered when designing commercial and living spaces.


Here are a couple of examples of natural causes of noise pollution:


Wind

Strong winds, especially during storms or in high-speed areas like mountain passes, can create loud and persistent noise. This wind noise can mask other sounds, making communication difficult and potentially stressing both humans and animals.


Thunder

Thunder can generate sounds over 120 decibels, this is loud enough to potentially cause temporary hearing loss. Also constant thunder can lead to difficulty communicating and possibly causing difficulty sleeping.


 

Noise Awareness Training


Noise awareness training is useful for anyone working in environments where loud or prolonged noise is present. The training ensures employers are adhering to regulations by providing their staff sufficient education on the risks they might face at work.


A few advantages of Noise Awareness Training include:


  • Increased adherence to PPE policy

  • Employees are aware of risks

  • Compliance with Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

  • Improved Employee Safety


 

a link to a noise awareness course

Sources


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