Flights contribute to noisiest cities in America rankings

Photo credit: Chait Goli

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Ranking first on any list usually leads to boasting. Even making the “top ten” in a list brings joy, but I doubt that the first ten names on a list of the “Noisiest Cities in America” will take delight in their rankings. Steve Howe starts his article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle by noting that “high noise levels are a damaging and stressful situation for people and animals.”

Howe rightfully goes on to explain that noise can lead to adverse health effects like high blood pressure, sleep disruption and noise-induced hearing loss. Howe adds that sirens can be as high as 120 decibels, which is extremely loud, and can undoubtedly awaken even the best of sleepers. The article explains that prolonged noise exposure over 70 decibels can impede hearing.  

One hundred cities across the United States were selected for the study described in this article. These cities were evaluated by a set of metrics related to noise pollution, and the findings were shared in a table. New York City is listed as number one, and Chicago, Boston, Miami and Los Angeles are all in the top ten. Traffic, commute time, average number of flights per day, construction and population per square mile were used as variables for the rankings. New York City received a total score of 95, but Chicago was a close second with 94. Jersey City scored 93.  

Many of our readers are concerned about aircraft noise, which makes their lives stressful every day. They should be pleased to see average flights per day selected as a variable. Chicago came in first for flights with 2,227 average flights per day. New York City had over 2,000 flights per day, as did Dallas.

Over 2,000 daily flights is enough to explain why groups across the United States are battling aircraft noise. However, other variables identified in this study contributed to noise pollution and adversely affect the health of residents. We also need to applaud groups such as Noise Pollution Clearinghouse and Right to Quiet for advocating for a quieter, healthier environment.  

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation are listed as sources in this study. Thus, one can ask whether these two agencies are doing enough to lessen noise pollution. But as I have frequently said, data are not lacking. It is instead the action that should follow that is lacking.  

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