Review Article

Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague

Authors: Lisa Goines, RN, Louis Hagler, MD


Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Environmental noise consists of all the unwanted sounds in our communities except that which originates in the workplace. Environmental noise pollution, a form of air pollution, is a threat to health and well-being. It is more severe and widespread than ever before, and it will continue to increase in magnitude and severity because of population growth, urbanization, and the associated growth in the use of increasingly powerful, varied, and highly mobile sources of noise. It will also continue to grow because of sustained growth in highway, rail, and air traffic, which remain major sources of environmental noise. The potential health effects of noise pollution are numerous, pervasive, persistent, and medically and socially significant. Noise produces direct and cumulative adverse effects that impair health and that degrade residential, social, working, and learning environments with corresponding real (economic) and intangible (well-being) losses. It interferes with sleep, concentration, communication, and recreation. The aim of enlightened governmental controls should be to protect citizens from the adverse effects of airborne pollution, including those produced by noise. People have the right to choose the nature of their acoustical environment; it should not be imposed by others.

Key Points

* Noise pollution is a growing problem that remains unaddressed.

* Society now ignores noise the way it ignored the use of tobacco products in the 1950s.

* Until people at all levels recognize the inherent dangers of noise pollution, nothing will change. In our view, health professionals will have to lead the way in this effort.

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