Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

When Noise Is a Matter of Life and Death

The world is noisier than ever, and the long-term effects of exposure are serious. Still, noise pollution isn’t considered a legitimate environmental hazard.
October 31, 2019, 10am PDT | Camille Fink
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
Mary Theresa McLean

"Noise is never just about sound; it is inseparable from issues of power and powerlessness. It is a violation we can’t control and to which, because of our anatomy, we cannot close ourselves off," writes Bianca Bosker. In this feature piece, she examines the increase in noise, in cities as well as in the most remote of places, and the physical and psychological toll on humans and animals.

Research has clearly shown that noise impacts health in a number of ways, reports Bosker. "Large-scale studies show that if the din keeps up—over days, months, years—noise exposure increases your risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and heart attacks, as well as strokes, diabetes, dementia, and depression." Yet noise pollution is not recognized as a public health threat and regulation has been inconsistent.

Bosker notes the many sources of noise in the modern world, but she describes in much more detail the particular case of data centers. Residents living near these complexes say the constant humming from the chillers at these huge complexes is unbearable. "Noise, having emancipated itself from the human hand, is becoming autonomous and inexhaustible. Human noisemakers have to sleep, but our mechanical counterparts, which do not tire, die, or strain their vocal cords, can keep up a constant, inescapable clamor," adds Bosker.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, October 10, 2019 in The Atlantic
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email