The ignored noise pollution

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

The January 29 report from Sagay City about the steamrolling of 1,184 open exhaust pipes calls attention to an ignored pollution in this country – noise, ironically a “silent” killer and cause of diseases not only on humans but also on animal life. Indeed, it is so unnoticeable that people do not think that the persistent increased sounds can hurt them. Some people even love high pitched vibrations that they call modern music.

Mayor Alfredo Marañon deserves praise for enforcing the ordinance that will prevent diseases that are caused by noise pollution.

Noise pollution, is also known as environmental noise or sound pollution. The source of this ignored danger to human and animal health are many and are easily detected.  In fact, we are subjected to it every day, almost every moment of our lives, whether we are awake or asleep.

They are caused by radio and television shows inside our house or an uncontrolled or loud playing of “music”. Outdoor noise everywhere on this planet is caused by machines, motor transport on land, air or sea and the blasts of karaoke bars.

Our house or place of work can be close to sources of noise, like being along the streets or highways or factories and industrial parks. Even grass cutters, motorized lawn mowers and barking dogs and quarreling or mating cats can be a source of unpleasant sounds.

In some residential subdivisions the associations are very strict in enforcing anti-noise pollution rules, like prohibiting dogs from barking out into the open, grass cutters from working during the siesta hours and security guards patrolling the area with noisy motorcycles. Families are required to tone down their music.

I remember a controversy in a posh subdivision where one homeowner filed a complaint because the trucks that carried construction materials make loud thuds whenever they passed by the hump at the gate. The hump was shaved off considerably and trucks had to move slowly.

Noise is measured in Decibel (dB). The average noise level of 97.60 dB obtained industrial areas exceeded the World Health Organization value of 50 dB allowed for residential areas. Research suggests that noise pollution is “highest in low-income and racial minority neighborhoods.”

Understandably there is more noise in low income neighborhoods because aside from the sources mentioned above, there are quarreling spouses and children and husbands getting a lambast for imbibing too much alcohol. I know one subdivision in Bacolod where people shout at each other in the streets, not unlike the fish and vegetable peddlers.

Reports say that “high noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss. While the elderly may have cardiac problems due to noise, according to the World Health Organization, children are especially vulnerable to noise, and the effects that noise has on children may be permanent. Noise poses a serious threat to a child’s physical and psychological health and may negatively interfere with a child’s learning and behavior.”

The United States has already considered noise as a health risk when it passed the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act of 1972 to protect human health and minimize annoyance of noise to the general public. The law established standards for virtually every source of noise, including motor vehiclesaircraft, certain types of  heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment and major appliances. It mandated local governments to address noise mitigation in their land use projects.

We have similar laws and local ordinances against noise pollution. There were campaigns some years ago against motorcycles violating the prescribed the standards for their mufflers. As the name of these exhaust pipes suggest, they are made to muffle the noise. Section 8 of RA 386 prohibits property owners from “committing nuisance through noise, jarring, offensive odor, smoke, heat, dust, water, glare and other causes.” These persons can be liable for damages.

But motorcycle riders are braggarts. They rev up their engines to show off without regard for the fact that they are their first victims.

Would that local governments follow the example of Mayor Marañon. However, the campaign should not be limited to motorcycles but to all noise makers who probably are already suffering from their own poison.