Pollutants are a common topic and concern for many people throughout the world. The main pollutants that are mentioned include; water, air, and soil. However, there is another common pollutant that is often not considered as a potential health hazard. This pollutant is noise. There is not a great health concern with noise pollution unless you experience exposure for a long duration of time. A general guideline is 24 hours of exposure over 80 decibels can begin to create negative responses in the human body. But what sort of effects could noise possibly have if it seemingly only affects our ears? Exposure to noise pollution can cause heightened blood pressure, heart diseases, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and in extreme cases, loss of hearing.
Noise can come from various places, and the sources of noise can change throughout the year depending on your environment. Environment’s with heavy traffic of cars and trains will have a higher noise level than houses outside of a city with less traffic. In the summertime, a lawn mower can output levels over 80 decibels while it is cutting the grass. Since lawn mowers typically don’t run over 24 hours, this is not a cause for concern to people experiencing the noise. During a thunderstorm event, many different noise sources can be identified. Examples include; rain hitting the roof of a home, wind pushing against walls or trees, and booming thunder overhead. Thunder claps can reach levels well over 100 decibels depending on how close they are to you.
The Environmental Health Investigators are currently researching the noise levels throughout St. Louis and the Metro East area. We have deployed sound level meters throughout the area in an attempt to identify locations of high noise pollution. First image is one of our sound level meters. If you are curious what the noise sources and decibels levels are in your environment, I urge you to download an app on a smartphone and begin to see what scientific data you can find!
Blog written by STEM Center graduate student and Environmental Health Investigators assistant, Josh Gifford!