This common set of noise assessment methods will be the basis by which officials obtain comparable figures by the end of 2013. All EU Member States will be required to start using the CNOSSOS methods for Europe’s next round of strategic noise mapping in 2017.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik calls noise a serious environmental risk noise a serious environmental risk to public health, especially in urban areas, due to increased traffic and inefficient urban planning. The CNOSSOS-EU will aid European Commission in coordinating the methods used to assess exposure to noise so that data collected from all 27 countries can be compared uniformly, and efficient solutions to noise exposure across Europe will be more effective. The concept is an EU-wide systematic approach to managing noise pollution.
I compare this approach to traffic laws in the U.S. – they’re universal. No matter where you drive in America, you know what yellow, red, and green lights mean. Roadway signage is immediately identifiable, and everyone – well, almost everyone – knows what is expected of them in order to comply with traffic laws anywhere in the U.S.
It makes sense that the EU is approaching its noise pollution issues this way, not just economically speaking, but enforcement will be more widely accepted and it seems that in a decade or so, Europeans will be uniformly adhering to noise ordinances. There is no other way any noise pollution solution is going to work.
I imagine there may be some resistance, or at least I think there would be here in the U.S., where noise is almost a civil right to many of us. Americans like their car stereos loud and their parties rambunctious, but as we all begin to realize that a noise-free restaurant meal, or hotel room, or home near an airport would be a welcome thing, it’s never going to happen without the kind of intensive planning and orchestration that the EU has so carefully planned and begun to instigate.
Are Americans ready to pull the plug on Springsteen at 10 p.m.? I think not, which is why Europe will beat us to peace and quiet by at least decade or more. They’ll leave us in their noise pollution dust if the same serious initiative isn’t taken this side of the pond.
Americans are suffering from the same noise-related sleep disorders, health effects, and hearing loss as the Europeans, and yet Americans are reluctant to give up some of the worst noise offenders – boom cars, for instance, which are illegal in some countries, continue to (literally) blow out the eardrums of drivers and passengers before they’re 20. Helicopters, motorcycles, and most forms of transportation are filling the environment with noise. We like our concerts and radios loud, we build our gymnasiums, restaurants, bars and hotels with inadequate consideration of acoustical consequences.
Even hospital zones, which have the strictest noise cap at 45 decibels, are registering decibel levels between 90 and 117, with no police or government control stepping in. Exposure to noise levels as high as those being recorded at Navaratri celebrations, even for just a few hours, can cause elevation in blood pressure, raise stress levels, and impair hearing. After nine days and nights of noise levels this high, the possibility of suffering from a noise-related health event rises sharply.
And for hospital patients, children, and pets that have no ability to escape the noise, the aftermath can be particularly harsh. Hospital patients exposed to noise levels considerably lower than those being measured at festival locations cause patients to suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders, elevated blood pressure, and stress, all of which impairs healing.
Children exposed to such high decibel levels show a marked inability to focus, and are less able to keep up with school work. The aftermath of noise-induced hearing damage is often irreversible, a serious issue for not only children, but for everyone.
This is not an easy problem to address, as religious festivals like Navaratri are sacred to India’s enormous Hindu population and have been celebrated for centuries. But the noise from firecrackers, music, loudspeakers, crowds and traffic is harming Indian citizens.
This is serious.
Some Indian citizens are taking proactive measures to raise awareness and cut noise pollution, particularly during the many festivals. Many are uploading decibel measuring software to their smartphones, measuring noise levels at a multitude of locations, and filing a complaint with the police. Every year, tolerance for festival noise diminishes, and people are now taking the issue into their own hands.