Reduced Noise Pollution is One Important Side Benefit of Covid-19 Restrictions
As Ireland enters a contentious second period of lockdown, it can be difficult to see the side benefits of the restrictions, however, there are several, not least of all the protection of public health. In a recent article on BigThink.com, Derek Beres writes that reduced noise is just one of the many benefits of quarantine. He questions why the topic of noise pollution is not spoken about more considering the damage it can do to public health.
To everyone currently residing in countries that are under quarantine and in a high-level lockdown, have you gone outside and just listened to the sounds of nature recently? Do the birds sound much louder to you right now? Research shows that the birds have actually stayed at the same volume, the factor that has changed is the amount of manmade noise, including traffic and infrastructure works, around us. For the first time in years, the loudest sound in many areas is the birdsong above our heads.
Across the US - with regional differences from state to state - the levels of urban noise increased by 12% between 1995 and 2006. This was such a major jump that 40% of Americans reportedly claimed they wished to move somewhere quieter. Beres makes the great point that "city residents are accustomed to noise levels regularly being above 85 decibels (dB). Live with that for a few years and hearing loss might be in your future. Cut your skin and it heals within days. Lose your hearing and it's not coming back".
Persistent excessive noise not only leads to hearing loss, it can also cause fatigue and psychological stress. Biologically, high levels of noise can be attributed to glucocorticoid enzymes levels increasing significantly. This is particularly evident in noisy workplaces, with many people experiencing severe exhaustion, high blood pressure and overall negative attitudes. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a 128-page report in 2011 entitled Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise. The report notes that exposure to increased levels of noise from a young age can actually cause learning problems, including reading comprehension, memory and attention.
Due to the seriousness of the lockdowns in many countries right now, it can be helpful to recognise and appreciate some of the side benefits. Pollution levels across Wuhan, Italy, Spain and the US have dropped by approximately 30% since earlier this year. It is heartening to see that many countries have actually put measures in place to keep these levels down after the impacts of the pandemic have passed. In fact, we wrote about one of these initiatives recently, which involved a study by the University of Michigan and close to 6,000 Apple Watch users who allowed sound levels around them to be monitored, recorded and reported. You can read more about the study here: sonitussystems.com/news/university-of-michigan-together-with-apple-inc-highlights-human-exposure-to-noise
Does your organisation require noise or air quality monitoring? Sonitus Systems offers comprehensive environmental monitoring, using the latest technology and automated systems. We simplify the environmental monitoring process, giving you access to real-time data and online reporting. For more details on our noise and air quality monitoring products and services, contact the team at Sonitus Systems.