Noise pollution

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Car stereo advertisement.
Any unwanted man-made sound that penetrates the environment is noise pollution. Noise pollution can be caused by many sources including highways, vehicles, factories, concerts, air-conditioners, engines, machine, aircraft, helicopters, alarms, public address systems, industrial development and construction work. In general noise pollution refers to any noise irritating to one's ear which comes from an external source.


Noise pollution can be harmful to animals. High enough levels of noise pollution may interfere with the natural cycles of animals, which may change their migration paths to avoid the sound. Perhaps the most extreme damage caused by noise pollution is the death of marine mammals by the rupturing of various tissues and organs, brought on by the extremely loud (up to 200 decibels) sound of military SONAR. Persistent infrasonic sound, that is, low frequency sounds can cause physical disturbances to people. For example, diesel generators for refrigerated trucks are a common source for this type of noise pollution.

The following factors tend to establish the human effects of noise pollution:

  1. The inherent unpleasantness of the sound. This varies widely among individuals and groups. What is music to one is noise to another.
  2. The persistence and recurrence of the noise. Most listeners can tolerate occasional loud noises more than persistent and recurrent loud noises.
  3. The meaning listeners attribute to the sound. The information content of the noise influences annoyance, so if listeners do not like the message of the music being played, they are more likely to be annoyed. If listeners associate noise with people they think are dangerous, the problem seems even more serious.
  4. Whether the sound interferes with listeners' activities. Noise is more likely to annoy people during nighttime hours than during daytime hours because it disrupts sleep.
  5. Whether listeners feel they can control the noise. The less control one feels, the more likely the noise will be annoying.
  6. Whether listeners believe third parties, including police, can control the noise. If people believe a third party can control the noise but has failed to do so, they are more likely to be annoyed by the noise.

Car stereos

While residential noise pollution in the 1980s was largely limited to barking dogs, airplanes, parties, and fireworks, the late 1990s brought a rapid escalation in the use of car stereos, many outfitted with powerful subwoofers that drive through walls hundreds of feet away. Furthermore, they are driven through residential neighborhoods at all hours.

Authorities have become concerned about loud car stereos for several reasons: they annoy some people, set off car alarms; and inhibit drivers' ability to hear emergency signals on the road. It is also widely reported that car stereos serve as a beacon for drug sales in much the same manner as icecream ( vans.

Legal status

Governments have traditionally viewed noise as a "nuisance" rather than an environmental problem. In the United States and Canada there are no national, provincial, or state laws that give blanket protection against noise. As a result, most regulation has been left up to municipal authorities.

Noise bylaws and ordinances vary widely from one municipality to another and indeed do not even exist in some towns and cities. Where they exist, they may contain a general prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance to other people, or they may set out specific guidelines for the level of noise allowable at certain times of the day and for certain activities. Exceptions are generally made for activities considered legitimate or necessary, such as lawn-mowing or garbage collection.

Most city ordinances prohibit sound from carrying past a property line at night, typically between 10 pm and 6 am, and during the day restricts it to a certain decibel level. More progressive cities also prohibit sound equipment in vehicles that produces vibrations at a certain distance. Checking local ordinances will reveal the exact restrictions for a locality.

However, enforcement is patchy. Many municipalities do not follow up on complaints. Even where a municipality has an enforcement office, it may be unwilling to do more than issue warnings, since taking offenders to court is expensive. For persistent nuisances, individuals may have to seek damages through the civil courts.

Some jurisdictions, such as New York City and Chicago authorize police to impound cars with loud stereos and to hold the cars as evidence until the citation has been adjudicated.


Noise pollution tends to persist because only 5 to 10 percent of people bothered by any type of noise will file an official complaint. Many citizens are not aware of or interested in their legal right to quiet and do not know how to register a complaint.

The first line of action is to politely confront the person responsible for the noise. If this has no effect, the next step is to call the non-emergency police number, and obtain a written report if the noise is in an apartment complex. Clear documentation, repetitive complaints, getting neighbors involved, and forming a neighborhood watch tend to be effective at obtaining enforcement, as does contacting one's police chief, city manager, mayor, or representative.


Noise activism links by location


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