Measuring noise at the bedroom window

Photo credit: Scott Webb

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

At the recent webinar, Sounding the Alarm on Noise – NYC meets TO, all attendees agreed that the hour passed much too quickly. Hosted by No More Noise Toronto founder Ingrid Buday, the Jan. 4 webinar highlighted efforts to strengthen noise reporting bylaws in Toronto. The event featured two leading experts on noise and health: environmental psychologist and Quiet Coalition co-founder Arline Bronzaft and urban health researcher Tor Oiamo. 

No More Noise Toronto is fighting for stronger bylaws that will improve noise regulation enforcement. The group organizes locally, teaches advocacy skills to Toronto citizens affected by noise and coordinates email campaigns to inform local government that it’s time for a change.

The grassroots organization gathered original scientific data to build a noise database. Members recorded thousands of hours of sound levels at more than 40 locations to reinforce citizen reports (gathered through surveys). Buday measured sound levels at citizens’ homes as a means of “tempering emotional responses with numbers.” According to Oiamo, the organization improved the City of Toronto’s incomplete noise data by measuring sound levels “at the bedroom window.” Toronto residents can contribute to the dataset on the “Not 311” Noise Report page.

Bronzaft reminded the audience that improving noise bylaws is an inherently slow and piecemeal process. She noted that the New York City Council recently approved legislation aimed at reducing noise pollution throughout the city. Although a step in the right direction, “it would be more effective to update the entire noise code as a single instrument,” she said. Bronzaft discussed several technological advances in sound level measurement that could be integrated across noise regulation efforts.

No More Noise Toronto is a local group, but thanks to social media and Buday’s remarkable networking skills, the organization’s actions have influenced residents across Canada and the United States. I encourage all those interested in noise and health to visit the “Not 311” Noise Report page for ideas and inspiration, and to check out the organization’s YouTube channel.

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