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Noise Pollution and its Sources, are Major Environmental Issues

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 10/18/2010

Noise pollution is now an environmental issue. Noise is only a by-product of modern technology. The harm noise brings us is more than the intrusive and distractive sounds that can cause health disorders and low productivity.In fact the sources of noise pollution can also do damage on its own.

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    The Real Problems behind Noise Pollution

    Noise actually came from the Latin word “noxia" which means hurt or harm that can affect not only human beings, but plants and animals as well. It becomes a pollutant when it destroys balance and harmony as its main environmental issue. Anything found to be in excess can be harmful because it can lead to problems that are more serious. It becomes detrimental if it affects health and well-being and causes a decrease in productivity and damage to infrastructures.

    However, noise pollution is only a by-product of an even greater environmental problem.

    The real problems behind noise pollution are its sources. Factories, highways, airports, and construction sites are obvious sources of noise pollution, however, the significance of the harm that noise brings cannot compare to what comes along with its emission:

    On Air

    428px-US Navy 051026-N-2838C-009 An F-14D Tomcat dumps fuel prior to a sun set landing aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) 

    A flying airplane produces harsh reverberating sounds with the use of several air pollutants that can directly affect the Earth’s climate system. As these airplanes emit nerve wracking sounds the aircraft likewise emits pollutants from its engine exhausts.

    Kerosene as the main component of aviation fuel emits through its combustion processes, the much dreaded carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide as well as water vapor, sulfur and unburnt hydrocarbons also known as soot.

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    On Land and On Sea

    On Land

    798px-GDSF (2007) Steam Heavy Haulage (1) 

    Automobiles, trains, and farm tractors immediately affect our physical well-being, not only by the intrusive sounds that can cause hearing impairment and hypertensions. The intensity of the noise pollution we hear connotes that these vehicles and equipment are in motion and therefore pumping more carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, at the highest level.

    Studies have proven that the combustion of petroleum fuel in automobiles In the city, as autos, smaller trucks, buses and motorcycles wait it out in the heavy traffic, these vehicles continuously emit both noise, and air pollutants as motors and exhaust systems are kept running.

    Communities near railroad stations and yards have to bear not only with the noise from the train engines, but also with the horns and whistles during shunting and switching operations of railway stocks. Even the rail car retarders give-off screeching sounds that can reach 120 decibels covering a distance of 100 feet. The poor railroad worker on the other hand will bear about 140 decibels right in his ear.

    EPA expects diesel powered trains to cut their soot emissions by as much as 90% and their nitrogen emissions by 80% to promote cleaner air emissions. Nitrogen is a known contributing factor to ozone depletion and acid rain, while hydrocarbon becomes harmful once it forges a chemical reaction with nitrogen.

    In farms, tractors, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers cause hearing impairments to farmers as young as 30 years old. These equipments reach about 85 decibels and its prolonged use in a day’s work at the farm becomes a cause for hearing loss. However, farm operations bring about more than noise pollution to cause degradation of our environment. As tractors and irrigation pumps are in motion, they produce farm run-offs containing fertilizers and at times animal manure that flows into the river and into gulfs.

    The U.S. Geological Survey reports a vast part of the water in the Gulf of Mexico has formed an excessive growth of algae that resulted to low levels of dissolved oxygen. Here at this dead zone, the low oxygen level has smothered whatever marine life was in existence.

    On Sea

    800px-Ficks, Herbert, im Boot v. Michael Werner (Seebold) 1985-06-23 

    Cetaceans or the orders of mammals that include whales, dolphins, and porpoises who rely on sounds for feeding navigation have been highly affected by sonar activity in the ocean waters. Compressed nitrogen in the animal’s tissues caused fatal decompression when these animals where exposed to intense sonar activity. Other studies concerning boat noises, seismic testing, and other offshore developments provide leads that they are also possible causes in the disruption of marine ecology.

    In view of all these, what we think as simple noise pollution remediable by soundproofing materials, noise barriers, and white noise machines or simply moving out of the city carries a far greater significance in terms of environmental pollution. Perhaps we should remember that for every engine running, the sound created will remind us that we are causing more and more damage to the Earth’s atmosphere, or pumping more acid into the sea and disrupting another form of ecology.

    Images courtesy of Wikimedia