Reducing the health impacts of noise pollution – Noise Action Week 2018

Noise Action Week 2018 offers a timely opportunity for everyone involved in noise management – including local councils, housing providers, acoustics professionals as well as communities blighted by noise – to raise awareness of the cost of noise in our neighbourhoods to our health.   The week is also an opportunity for those involved in activities with the potential to cause noise problems – whether its building work or a music event – to demonstrate they’re committed to reducing noise pollution. Planning and communication can prevent noisy work and events from causing problems – just as planning where our homes and facilities are can reduce the number of problems arising.


Noise recognised as a health problem

In her recently published report on the health impacts of pollution the Chief Medical Officer in England acknowledges that noise pollution is second only to air pollution in the extent of damage it causes to public health.  She also says noise is very likely the pollutant that has the greatest impact on our quality of life. Local councils and local concillors are well aware of this as noise is the single largest source of complaint in their inboxes.  Surveys have found over 80% of people are exposed to noise pollution at home and nearly half of people are bothered by intrusive traffic noise in their homes. The effects of disturbing noises in our neighbourhoods are less easy to quantify, but most of us have suffered the impacts of late night parties, persistently barking dogs of high decibel DIY. The need for a Noise Action Week remains – as it offers an opportunity to focus attention on a pollutant that affects everyone. We can’t close our ears – and research has shown that exposure to noise may harm us even as we sleep. Our bodies’ fight or flight mechanism is designed to alert as to danger – and noise at night can impact on our body chemistry even if we don’t wake up.

Combating noise is costly

Once a noise problem is established – it can be complex and costly to sort out. A recent example reported in the press is the long running dispute between musician Jools Holland with a wedding venue next door to his home. Sorting out a noise problem is expensive -– and can cost councils (and council tax payers) £130 – £7k per complaint. This figure excludes the cost to the complainant of disturbance, lost sleep and productivity as well as  time collecting evidence to support any investigation. The cost of health effects to those suffering noise is even harder to quantify.  In her report the CMO says – “Pollution is like junk food – it doesn’t hit you on the day but it can accumulate and do you harm. Noise (and light) both impact on sleep affecting performance and mental health.”

This is why Noise Action Week remains important, as an annual opportunity to promote practical ways to prevent noise problems arising. These include in the design and construction of our homes and in the planning process. It also includes ensuring noisy activities are undertaken at a time and in a place where they are least likely to cause disturbance – and if noise is unavoidable mainataining clear communications with anyone disturbed to keep disruption to a minimum – whether planning a party, major building works or an entertainment of sporting event.

Support Noise Action Week – reduce noise

During Noise Action Week we are encouraging anyone involved in managing noise problems – or responsible for inherently noisy activities – to join us in approaching a common sense approach to reducing the impact of noise on the health and well being of communities and individuals.

If you are a local authority noise team, housing provider, mediation service, noise consultant or an event organiser, responsible for licensed premises, construction company or involved in any other noisy activity – we hope you will help to reduce the impact of noise pollution on all our health – and the wider environment – by supporting Noise Action Week. If you’re short of time / funds – offer to talk to your local press or radio station about what you are doing to reduce noise. If you really want to make an impact – organise an event to offer advice on noise and demonstrate how you are working to reduce it. There are plenty of ideas for activities on the Take Part page of our website.

Get in touch with us with your comments and ideas for Noise Action Week, or to join our mailing list, and help us reduce the impact and cost of our most widespread pollutant –

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