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What can we do about increasing noise pollution in the environment?

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Nitish Nov 23, 2020
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With increasing technological advancements, we are adding more and more noise in the environment. Every sound we produce persists infinitely at the quantum state and acts as a base for reinforcing noise. However, the normal sound is necessary for the continuity of livelihood. But, undesired sound or noise which is higher than the permissible limit is not tolerated either by people, animals, plants or marine lives . Generally, noise is contributed by both; industrial and non-industrial processes of daily lives in our surroundings. Noise can affect health and well being of any individual in myriad ways like discomfort to ears, fluctuation in sleep cycles, conversation and hearing inabilities, unpleasant feeling of well being etc. Moreover, the dire consequences of noise pollution are not limited to terrestrial life only; instead, water flora and fauna is also affected by the noise of submarines and big ships in the ocean.
Recently, the famous Romulus Whitaker wrote while expressing his concerns over effects of noise on animal behaviour; “Sound is a weapon, and I’m guessing that this auditory torture may well change animals breeding and behaviour patterns".
We all are aware of common sources of noise pollution like electronic gadgets, transport vehicles, jet planes, helicopters, industrial machines, etc. But we are certainly doing nothing to reduce our share of noise pollution. Even though, most of us might not have been aware of the phenomenon like noise pollution. The severity of the situation can be judged by the following report of the European Environment Agency (EEA), which says; noise is responsible for 16,600 premature deaths and more than 72,000 hospitalisations every year in Europe alone . This is really a serious call, and we all should churn out some methods to curb this upcoming devastation.



Creative contributions

Trees and shrubs to cancel the noise pollution

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Nov 23, 2020
Plants are very beneficial when it comes to reducing pollution. Not just against soil and air pollution, enough research data suggests that planting dense trees and shrubs can drastically reduce noise pollution, especially in our urban spaces. The different ways in which plant reduce noise can be summarised as follows:
  • Noise absorption: Parts like leaves and woods absorb the sound waves and dampen them.
  • Sound deflection: The rigidity of the tree trunks reflects the sound waves towards the source. Other parts like leaves that vibrate are useful in deflecting sound into other energy forms.
  • Sound refraction: The grounds covered by plants and walls with vines help the sound to bounce all over and create echoes that can disappear easily.
  • Sound masking: Trees that are bushy and leave will mask sounds very effectively and reduce the intensity.
The extent to which the trees can control noise depends on several factors like intensity, frequency and direction of the sound, as well as the location, height and density of the tree. Generally, as a norm, a tree barrier with an open distance of 100 feet can reduce sound by 21dB. Trees and shrubs are particularly good at attenuating high-frequency sounds.

Not just the physical modulation of sound, trees have been reported to be useful in cancelling the 'Psychological Noise'. The research found that landscape plants can moderate or buffer the effects of noise. It was indicated that the plants and shrubs can attenuate noise, and also greatly influence the overall emotional processing of noise by the (human) subjects, termed as 'psychological noise reduction. '


[2]Yang F, Bao ZY, Zhu ZJ. An assessment of psychological noise reduction by landscape plants. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8(4):1032-1048. doi:10.3390/ijerph8041032

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Integrate noise cancellation designs as mandatory while building residential buildings

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Nov 23, 2020
Like most metropolitan cities require the buildings to be earthquake resilent, the problem of noise pollution can be dealt with to some extent by making it mandatory for the buildings to have structural components geared for cancelling the city noises. This kind of engineering could be both external (outer surfaces of the buildings) and internal (inside the houses and rental flats).
For the design part, reference can be taken from already existing noise-cancellation methods as used by cinema halls and theatres.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 years ago
Even hospitals (and geriatric care facilities) and school buildings can be sound-proofed. An environment-friendly way to sound-proof the walls is to use diatoms. Diatoms are unicellular microbes that have a cell wall. The cell wall has two parts or frustules. Frustules make two overlapping halves (the epitheca and the hypotheca). The presence of numerous tiny pores in the frustules connects the protoplast of the cell to the environment. The cell wall contains silica, which creates patterns of minute perforations and striations. Around 90% of the cell wall is silica. Shells of diatoms are, therefore, highly resistant to decomposition. It serves as porous acoustic material, that is, a solid material with cavities to facilitate the entry of sound waves and their absorption with very little reflection.
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Technology advancement = noise reduction

Povilas S
Povilas S Nov 23, 2020
I'd say that the situation is vice versa from what you've described with the opening sentence of the session. Especially in recent years when fossil fuel as an energy source is being swiftly replaced by renewable electricity.

An obvious example is electric vehicles that are much more silent than fossil fuel ones. I've even heard (though I don't know if it's a rumor or not) that sound-producing devices are being installed in electric cars on purpose to warn pedestrians of their presence since people are so used to the sounds of approaching cars that they might not notice electric vehicles, which results in an increased number of accidents. But even fossil fuel-driven cars that are new are much more silent than they were say 10 or 20 years ago. And this is not only true in the case of cars, but virtually everything - as technology advances it becomes more precise and in most cases - quieter. So on one hand this is a direct side effect of technology advancement, but on the other - nobody likes noise, so the noise reduction feature is also on the minds of developers. Laptops now are virtually noiseless, while most stationary computers (and even laptops) some 10-15 years ago had pretty loud ventilators (pretty loud compared to current ones). Don't you think? Remember what the sound signals were on first mobile phones that didn't have polyphonic melodies - they were awful compared to those on our current smartphones.

What causes more noise is not really the advancement of technology, but the availability of technology to more users - we have more plains, more ships, more rockets, etc. So this is another thing to consider. But the city with only electric vehicles in it would be so much quieter than the city with fossil fuel-driven cars even if it had few times more of them. So hopefully, with time, this will be done with all the transportation and other types of still loud technology.
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Build new houses in more suitable locations

Jamila Nov 26, 2020
Build new houses in more suitable locations by using software that predicts which places have high noise pollution and thus wouldn't be suitable for a housing development.

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Electric cars and trucks; bicycles

jnikola Nov 26, 2020
Electric vehicles and bicycles could significantly reduce noise pollution. Since there is no internal combustion and engines roaring like in the 1950s, there is less sound while driving.

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Martina Pesce
Martina Pesce Mar 03, 2021
If it would be possible to make some earplugs to block the useless bothering sounds only, life in a city would be infinitely better.
Even if this is not possible, in big cities the use of normal earplugs could still be a possibility. The random social interactions are so rare that it's almost impossible that you cross your way with someone you know that would want to say "hi" and would be offended by your silence.
It may be a bit dangerous, but if the acoustic isolation of the earplugs is not 100%, it would not be less safe than walking while listening to music, which is a very common practice.
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Novel ultralight sound-insulating materials!

jnikola Jun 29, 2021
Lately, noise pollution is being often mentioned in the context of chronic diseases. By so-called nonauditory effects, noise causes disturbances in sleeping, activity, and communication, and results in the increased chronic stress, which can be directly related to cardiovascular risk factors . Furthermore, diabetes was highly correlating with road traffic noise at home .

It was also shown that environmental noise exposure highly correlated with the median household income, as a measure of socioeconomic status, in Montreal, Canada .

Probably that's the reason why cool inventions like this started to win the markets.
Scientists developed ultralight aerogel with amazing acoustic properties (Figure 1.). It is a graphene oxide (GO)/polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) aerogel (GPA) that has an extremely low density, which makes it a potentially groundbreaking sound insulation material. It was shown that the average transmission losses are as high as 0.79, meaning that it reduces the noise up to 79%! It could potentially be used to insulate houses, planes, buildings, etc., although it would be economically more acceptable and a better solution to insulate the sound source itself (e.g. engines).

Figure 1. The novel insulating material. Taken and adapted from .






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Live monitoring of noise levels in cities

Michaela D
Michaela D Oct 28, 2021
This would work in a similar way to what Purple Air does for air pollution. The technology of measuring noise levels is very simple and the measuring devices (called decibel meters) are small and cheap (retail price starting at $15). Decibel meters would be placed on the electricity columns all around the cities. They would be connected through wifi to a database and the recordings would go live. Recordings of the past would also be available to see how the noise levels fluctuate.
*Awareness of the noise levels. Even though many countries have limits on noise levels, those are hardly known, much less respected. By continuously measuring and posting noise levels, everyone would be more aware of noise-producing activities and devices. Examples include construction, exhaustion fans, loud music. Of course, some of these activities, like construction, cannot stop but their duration and frequency can be better regulated.
*By knowing the real-time as well as the overall noise levels people could choose to avoid noisy places. For example, one could choose quitter coffee shops to work, hotels to stay, even houses to rent.
*Ultimately, the above would lead to a tendency for quiter quiter cities, and therefore less noise pollution.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
I don't like the idea I'm about to write, but here goes anyway:
Make the electricity cost dynamic for each area. The higher the noise the higher the electricity cost. That would motivate people to self-police and get their own and others' noise down.
As a side effect, it could start fights between neighbors.
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General comments

Jamila 4 years ago
This infographic has some more ideas: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/multimedia/infographics/10_ways_to_combat_noise_pollution_standalone_infographic.pdf
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