Urban noise burden worse in lower-income neighborhoods

Photo credit: Max Bender

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

Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com, calls our attention to a comprehensive study that links urban noise pollution to the “historical practice of racial discrimination.” The study, conducted by Colorado State University researchers, reveals that neighborhoods that receive lower grades for investments in their homes are generally rated higher for noise pollution. The neighborhoods receiving the “lower” grades are more diverse and are the neighborhoods inhabited by lower-income families.

Sexton’s article, rightfully so, links high levels of noise with hearing impairment, sleep disturbances, health issues, and a “diminished quality of life.” She also notes the impact of noise on children and older adults, and also highlights the adverse impacts of noise on animals, reminding us that communications among animals and the ability to mate can be disturbed by noise.

While recognizing the dangers of noise to all earth’s species is important, it is imperative that this knowledge follows with actions to reduce the noise. Sexton’s article calls for the use of quieter technology in transportation and industry and for stricter enforcement of noise control regulation. While noise impedes health, parks and green spaces enhance well-being. Thus, it was good to learn that cities like Denver are working towards providing more parks and green spaces for people living in underserved communities.

The article ends by stating that “public awareness and education about the impacts of noise pollution may also help to mitigate this issue.” From my experience, I believe it will.


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