Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Vancouver - noise pollution capital.

The word "noise" is derived from the Latin word "nausea," meaning seasickness. Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today. Noise from road traffic, jet planes, garbage trucks, construction equipment, manufacturing processes, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and boom boxes, to name a few, are among the audible litter that are routinely broadcast into the air.
Noise negatively affects human health and well-being. Problems related to noise include hearing loss, stress, high blood pressure, sleep loss, distraction and lost productivity, and a general reduction in the quality of life and opportunities for tranquillity.

In Vancouver, you need to love noise. It is constant. Buses routinely leave their engines running while disembarking passengers. Deisel trucks do the same while stopping for lunch. Construction equipment engines have no mufflers. Pile drivers pound constantly. People feel they can shout at will because they are 'downtown'. The Harleys with drilled mufflers reverberate through the night, setting off faulty car alarms. Last night in our area, a construction crew was pouring concrete, and using a noisy vibrator to settle it at 9:45 pm! They were 17 stories up and working in the dark, I assume hoping no one would notice them up there.

Noise intensity is measured in decibel units. The decibel scale is logarithmic; each 10-decibel increase represents a tenfold increase in noise intensity. Human perception of loudness also conforms to a logarithmic scale; a 10-decibel increase is perceived as roughly a doubling of loudness. Thus, 30 decibels is 10 times more intense than 20 decibels and sounds twice as loud; 40 decibels is 100 times more intense than 20 and sounds 4 times as loud; 80 decibels is 1 million times more intense than 20 and sounds 64 times as loud. Distance diminishes the effective decibel level reaching the ear. Thus, moderate auto traffic at a distance of 100 ft (30 m) rates about 50 decibels. To a driver with a car window open or a pedestrian on the sidewalk, the same traffic rates about 70 decibels; that is, it sounds 4 times louder. At a distance of 2,000 ft (600 m), the noise of a jet takeoff reaches about 110 decibels—approximately the same as an automobile horn only 3 ft (1 m) away.

Noise pollution has already been linked to human stress in that it contributes to immediate health, both physical and psychological. Some people simply get sick, others suffer subliminal stress iritability which leads to higher crime rates and assaults.
The futility of trying to deal with noise pollution adds to the general problem. In Vancouver, no one will respond to excessive noise. The police think it is way down the list. City Hall sends you on a merry-go-round regarding regulations. Worker's Compensation suggests an officer will call you back and investigate in 5 days.

Noise pollution requires our attention. Living in downtown Vancouver is a trial, not a pleasure. Because of the attitude that 'business' can do whatever it wants. Giving out permits to continue construction well into the evening is only helping private builders of high-rise buildings rent out their suites and offices sooner. And it shows no regard for the present citizens of the city. Noise pollution needs to be curbed, it needs rules that allow business to carry on yet it needs regulations to cause a little quiet to those in the immediate neighborhood.


Subjected to 45 decibels of noise, the average person cannot sleep. At 120 decibels the ear registers pain, but hearing damage begins at a much lower level, about 85 decibels. The duration of the exposure is also important. There is evidence that among young people hearing sensitivity is decreasing year by year because of exposure to noise, including excessively amplified music. Apart from hearing loss, such noise can cause lack of sleep, irritability, heartburn, indigestion, ulcers, high blood pressure, and possibly heart disease. One burst of noise, as from a passing truck, is known to alter endocrine, neurological, and cardiovascular functions in many individuals; prolonged or frequent exposure to such noise tends to make the physiological disturbances chronic. In addition, noise-induced stress creates severe tension in daily living and contributes to mental illness.

Trucks and buses must be forced to shut down their engines while making deliveries. Jack-hammers could have a simple foldable shield placed around them to absorb some of their noise. Pile drivers and contruction sites should have enforced hours of operation. Motorcycles and loud cars need to be taken seriously and ticketted by police. Backhoes, loaders and drilling equipment should have mufflers installed. Truck drivers shouldn't have to sound their horns at building sites. Even ambulance and fire truck sirens should be directional, there is no need to just send the noise up amid the buildings when they are trying to alert the street level traffic that they are there.
At present, you forfeit your right to hear a bird once in a while by living in Vancouver.
People? Yes, they make noise too but I'd rather hear a little shouting out there at night, at least I'd know what people are saying.
Noise, what's it doing to us?

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  1. Anonymous9:23 am

    you said what i wanted to!

  2. Anonymous10:54 am

    they need some hard rules and enforcement. the noise drives you nuts.

  3. Anonymous1:36 pm

    it drives me nuts too


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