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Noise Pollution is a Threat to India’s Health

Updated on June 1, 2016

We all talk about air and water pollution. Well, noise pollution is also a threat to health, and India’s growing cities are unable to deal effectively with the issue. More and more people are consulting ENT specialists in Hyderabad and other cities due to the ill effects of noise pollution. Noise levels above 80 decibels can cause physical pain and hearing problems, as stated in an article on legalserviceindia.com. Noise pollution can come from the noise of road traffic, the noise of airplanes in the sky, the noise of trains speeding across, construction noise, the noise from firecrackers, the noise created by wedding parties and other such activities, noise caused by industrial processes, and even noise at home, from listening to music too loud, or turning the volume on the TV on high. Here are some examples of the decibel levels of the causes of noise pollution.

a) Airplane taking off- 120 decibels

b) City traffic and truck driving- 100-120 decibels

c) Nightclub- 100 decibels

d) Conversation- 30 decibels

Indian Cities which are the Worst Offenders

According to newsflicks.com, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has set acceptable decibel limits as follows:

a) Industrial areas- 75 decibels

b) Residential areas (daytime)- 55 decibels

c) Residential areas (night)- 45 decibels

Traffic and other noises make our cities noisier than the permitted levels. However, during festivals, the noise levels shoot up. In 2012, the noise level across Delhi was an average 100 decibels during Diwali, 107.3 decibels across Kolkata during Durga Puja, and 123.7 decibels across Mumbai during Ganesh Chaturthi. According to an article on livemint.com, a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) analysis has found Mumbai to be the noisiest city in India, followed by Navi Mumbai, Thane and New Delhi. The CPCB monitored noise levels at nine cities with a million in population or more, over 35 stations. The maximum violations of prescribed levels were observed in Mumbai, followed by Lucknow, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai. Bengaluru and Kolkata had the fewest number of violations of rules. According to the CPCB’s analysis, the most common source of noise pollution is motor vehicles. Other major sources include aircraft, industrial machinery, office machines, sirens and power tools.

Health Effects of Noise Pollution

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, noise pollution can exacerbate cardiovascular disease, lead to cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance and tinnitus, and at a very minimum, cause annoyances in daily life. This annoyance can lead to stress, which has an immediate physical impact on the body, and other reactions, such as elevated blood pressure levels. The WHO’s study of noise pollution in Europe led to a measure known as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). DALYs are the sum of the potential years of life lost due to premature death and the equivalent years of healthy life lost due to being in a state of disability. The WHO has estimated that DALYs lost from environmental noise are 61 000 years for ischemic heart disease, 45 000 years for cognitive impairment of children, 903 000 years for sleep disturbance, 22 000 years for tinnitus and 654 000 years for annoyance in the European Union Member States and other western European countries.

Lack of an Effective Response from India’s Government

While there are an increasing number of visits to ENT hospitals in Hyderabad such as Rainbow Hospitals, there has not been much movement on the enforcement of regulations regarding noise pollution. The Supreme Court has expressed its dissatisfaction over the non-implementation of its directions issued to states in 2005 to curb noise pollution, as reported by the dnaindia.com website. While noise pollution monitoring stations have been put up, and there has been some action on trying to restrict the use of firecrackers and loudspeakers beyond a certain hour in the night, nothing is being done to reduce the everyday noise pollution that Indians endure.

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