|WIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 08, No. 2 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1996, 16 pages)|
Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D.
Professor, City University of New York
Chair Noise Committee
Council on the Environment, New York City
Our world is becoming increasingly noisier but noise pollution has yet to be included among our major environmental concerns. In addition to the adverse effect of high levels of sound on hearing ability, exposure to noise has been linked to stress-related health impacts such as hypertension, impairments in cognitive development and learning, sleep deficits, and mental stress. Yet, the studies linking noise and health are still too few and largely correlational, calling for more research to confirm or refute the relationship.
Without strong findings on health hazards of noise, there has been a reluctance on the part of many governments, including the United States, to support programs aimed at reducing noise levels. So far the public outcry to noise, especially the noises emanating from the airplanes flying over many communities, has failed to arouse appropriate government response. Thus, to combat this more visible pollutant, community groups have banded together to educate citizens on the dangers of noise and to lobby makers to deal with the ever-rising decibel levels that surround us.
April 24, 1996, marked the first International Noise Awareness Day spearheaded by the League for the Hard of Hearing in New York City. What started out as a local conference on noise grew into an international program with cities across the United States partnering with cities in Canada, Europe and Asia in a program to alert citizens to hazards of noise and ways to quiet our surroundings. In New York City Major Giuluani marked the day's events with the proclamation and press conference in City Hall. It is hoped that the energy that drove the first International Noise Awareness Day continues as an international effort to abate the overwhelming sounds that surround us and threaten our health and well-being. It would also be desirable for all readers of this paper to enlist in this undertaking.
Although we talk of noise, we must recognize that the antithesis of noise is quiet. Quiet is a time we all need so that we can think, reflect and reason. Maybe in these more reflective moods, people will begin to realize that a world that is less noisy, less frenetic is also a world that is peaceful.