UN says urban noise is a problem

Image: United Nations Environment Programme (2022). Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches – Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The United Nations Environmental Program has released its Frontiers 2022 report, Noises, Blazes, and Mismatches: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern. Chapter 1 is titled “Listening to Cities: From noisy environments to positive soundscapes.”

My only quibble is with the chapter is the statement that “[r]egular exposure to over 85 dB for an 8-hour day or longer can cause permanent hearing damage.”
Auditory damage actually begins at much lower noise exposure levels, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends limiting exposures over 70 decibels (dB). As the CDC states, “[t]he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend maintaining environmental noises below 70 dBA over 24-hours (75 dBA over 8-hours) to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.”

The rest of the chapter offers a good summary of current thinking about urban noise with some good suggestions for dealing with it.

Another new publication to be aware of is the American Public Health Association policy statement released in January, “Noise as a Public Health Problem.” The new policy starts with the statement that “[n]oise is unwanted and/or harmful sound.” That’s true regardless of where one lives.

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