When you think of pollution, noise might not be the typical thing that comes to mind. Water and air pollution are among the most scrutinized types of pollution. Noise pollution has become a bigger issue as our ever evolving world continues to grow. The sound of a jet plane taking off or a train nearby can become a problem for those who have to work or live by it. Environmental noise is typically inevitable, but when it becomes hazardous to your health, action might need to be taken to help.
Noise pollution is more harmful to people than they may realize. It can permanently damage your hearing as well as cause many other issues. Some examples of the problems noise pollution can have on human health is hypertension, sleep disturbance, dementia, and even psychological dysfunctions. Noise pollution can also cause hearing impairment and development issues in children. Children tend to be more sensitive to noise which is why noise pollution can be detrimental to their hearing and development. In 2001, it was determined that approximately 12.5% of children aged 6 to 19 in the United States had some form of hearing impairment (Environmental Pollution Centers, 2017).
Even the shortest exposure to noise that exceeds 110 dB can damage our ears. The highest amount of decibels that can be tolerated by humans is around 120 dB. Things such as loud music from speakers or a jet plane taking off are over the 120 dB limit which can immediately cause damage (science.jrank.org). In 1987, congress recognized that planes and air traffic cause extensive noise pollution. The National Overflights Act was put in place to study the effect of air traffic over national parks. This act prohibits low-flying planes from flying over certain parts of Grand Canyon National Park (science.jrank.org).
The federal government passed legislature to try to minimize the effects noise pollution can have on people’s health. The Noise Pollution and Abatement Act was passed in 1972. It is also known as “The Noise Control Act.” It put a national policy in place that helped regulate sources of major noise and required federal entities to report their noise levels (gsa.gov). Any noise that exceeded 80 decibels was considered excessive and potentially harmful to one’s health. The noise included under this act includes vehicles, machinery, appliances, and much more. If noise was deemed excessive, federal noise emission standards and research will be used to determine the best course of action to reduce noise pollution.
The Quiet Communities Act of 1978 was passed to extend provisions the 1972 act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC). This office was responsible for handling all reports of noise pollution across the country and educating people on the effects of it. In 1982, this office was shut down due to President Ronald Reagan’s deficit reduction plan, and the decisions regarding noise pollution were transitioned to state and local Government. The Noise Control Act and the Quiet Communities Act are both still in effect today and were never rescinded by congress, however, they remain unfunded (EPA.gov).
In 2021, the Quiet Communities Act of 2021 was introduced. This bill would require the EPA to reestablish the ONAC to encourage the development of local noise control programs, research, and education. So far, this bill has been referred to the Subcommittee of Environment and Climate Change (congress.gov).