New Research Documents the Tragic Consequences of Noise Pollution

In the United States, busy roads shorten lives in more ways than one, but when it comes to the ill effects of noise pollution, almost no efforts are made to reduce the damage.

2 minute read

September 17, 2020, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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Vlasov Yevhenii / Shutterstock

"A team of Italian researchers found a broad consensus emerge from more than 250 scientific articles: urban noise pollution causes a variety of psychological, cardiovascular, and other health disorders — and the experts estimated that it costs 'at least one million healthy life years' per year across Western Europe," according to an article by Kea Wilson. 

While the evidence in the new research doesn't include the American experience, but it's likely that the public health outcomes from noise are worse, because U.S. cities are even louder than European counterparts. "[I]t’s pretty clear we’re suffering too," writes Wilson, "only 65.5 percent of Europeans are routinely exposed to traffic noises above 50 decibels, but 97 percent of Americans live with that level of constant ruckus from our car-dominated road network."

The new study also provides ideas for future research, noting that most studies into the effects of noise pollution focus on air travel, despite the documented ill effects of noise pollution from automobiles. 

"That dearth of research might help explain why restrictions on U.S. roadway sound levels are so lax. The Noise Control Act of 1972 authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to advise states on the recommended limits of noise pollution that would caused by their federally-funded road projects — but the responsibility for actually setting noise caps was shifted to the states less than ten years later, when the funding for the federal Office of Noise Abatement was rescinded," explains Wilson. Moreover: "The Federal Highway Administration provides almost no funding for highway noise abatement when it funds new road-building projects, besides a small number of federal dollars for concrete 'noise walls,' which don’t really work."

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