Overpopulation’s negative consequences are well-known to the nation’s environmentalists. Too many people lead to overdevelopment and put America’s already jeopardized resources, such as water, wetlands and wildlife, at further risk. International researchers have concluded that too many people also creates a level of noise pollution that brings with it serious health problems.
In today’s chaotic world, conditions are getting noisier and noisier out there. Noise of all kinds make life less pleasant for Americans seeking peace and quiet. In some cases, the reaction is to grin and bear it. A few years ago, a food columnist wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece suggesting that diners who patronize popular bistros should consider taking miniature bull horns with them so they could communicate with their partners. Upon a second reading, however, perhaps the reporter wasn’t kidding. Everyone has experienced the occasional need to yell across the table to be heard. Reviewers tabulated that an average restaurant’s sound intensity level of 80 dBAs, or decibels, is about the same as a garbage disposal, while the conversation level of typical diners peaks at about 60 dBAs.
In the scheme of today’s problems, restaurant noise pollution, although an increasing complaint of diners, is minor. People can always eat at home. But noise pollution’s far-ranging effects are destructive to humans, marine species, flying creatures and the overall environment.
The World Health Organization’s report titled “Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise” sounded a grave alarm after it collated data from various large-scale epidemiological studies of environmental noise in Western Europe that it collected over a 10-year period. WHO’s study analyzed environmental noise from planes, trains and vehicles, and other urban sources. Then, WHO looked at the linkage between noise and health maladies like cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, children’s cognitive impairment, and overall annoyance or short temper. Finally, the WHO team calculated the disability-adjusted life-years or DALYs – basically the healthy years of life lost to “unwanted” human-induced dissonance.
WHO’s research team found that at least one million healthy years of life are lost each year in Europe alone attributable to noise pollution, a total that’s exclusive of industrial workplace noise. The authors concluded that the evidence is “overwhelming” that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the population’s health, and ranked traffic noise second behind air pollution among public health threats. The authors also determined that while pollution in general is decreasing, noise pollution is increasing.
The Australian Academy of Science sounded another alarm bell. People incorrectly assume, the AAS opined, that while they’re sleeping, noise is shut out. AAS advises, however, that the human ear, because of its extreme sensitivity, never rests. Even during sleep, ears are working; it’s a permanently open auditory channel. The ear is constantly processing background noises from car traffic, aircraft or music, which eventually can lead to the same health problems that WHO listed. The finding from both WHO and AAS were supported by other European health specialists. The Imperial College London as well as Barts and the London School of Medicine found ties between road traffic noise and the onset of type 2 diabetes.