The decadal growth of the urban population in India rose to Most activities that cause pollution are essential to meet the needs of the growing population and development. Therefore preventive measures to minimize pollutants are more practical than their elimination. Noise is regarded as a pollutant under the air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, The WHO guidelines for community noise recommend less than 30 A-weighted decibels dB[A] in bedrooms during the night for a sleep of good quality and less than 35 dB A in classrooms to allow good teaching and learning conditions.
The WHO guidelines for night noise recommend less than 40 dB A of annual average Lnight outside of bedrooms to prevent adverse health effects from night noise.
It is increasingly becoming a potential hazard to health, physically and psychologically, and affects the general well-being of an individual. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behavior.
It also interferes with communication, and this can even endanger life. However, it is a physical pollutant, not visible and the damage occurs silently, going undetected.
This is also because sensitivity of the human ear gets automatically adjusted to ambient noise levels, even to increasing noise levels. Moreover, noise pollution control is overshadowed by other types of pollution such as air, water pollution, largely due to lack of awareness about its health implications.
There are two major settings where noise occurs, viz. Community noise also called environmental noise, residential noise, or domestic noise is defined as noise emitted from all sources, except noise at the industrial workplace. The response of the human ear to sound depends both on the sound frequency Hertz and the sound pressure decibels.
The range of hearing by a healthy young person is , Hz. Sensitivity to higher frequencies decrease with age and exposure to noise. Noise exposure at one time can occur from various sources, therefore the average sound pressure level over a specific time period is usually measured.
Though it is simple and convenient to use, it has limitations of poor predictability. Noise dosimeter, which is worn by the person, has the advantage over noise level meter, of capturing the average noise exposure even while moving around. Impulse-sound level meters are preferably used for measuring impulsive sounds, as their short integration time is appropriate for the short integration time of the cochlea, where injury from noise exposure occurs.
To control the generation of noise by various sources in the environment, the Central Pollution Control Board, under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has set standards of sound for different categories of areas residential, commercial, industrial and silence zones , separately for day-time and at night [ Table 1 ].
It has also set permissible noise limits for vehicles at the manufacturing stage and noise standards for firecrackers. It is a part of the implementation of the National Environmental Policy section 5. Ongoing monitoring and appropriate implementation will be possible by this systematic network with central receiving station in Delhi. Several studies have been conducted in various parts of the country to assess the ambient noise level.
Majority of the total environmental noise is caused by motor vehicles. Noise generated by different vehicles was also measured. None of the vehicles emitted within the permissible limits for road traffic noise. The highest average noise level for night time was in traffic intersection areas Increasing population, transportation demands, vehicular increase, and congestion of roads are factors that have intensified traffic noise pollution significantly in recent years.
Studies assessing noise levels in different settings, week day and holidays, and different zones observed that average noise levels were above the permissible standards. Daily exposure to such noise levels over a long period can have harmful effects.
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With rapid urbanization, often unmatched by proper layout of roads, highways and buildings, industrial, residential, and commercial areas lie in close proximity. This disturbs the peaceful environment of residential areas. The ambient noise levels in silence zones were found to go even up to 90 dB.
Night time noise levels in residential areas also exceed the prescribed limits of 55 db A in day-time and 45 db A at night time. In addition to the continuous traffic noise which people are exposed to, community festivities, public address systems, noise from machines at construction sites, etc, affect the quality of life. According to a study conducted in a residential area in Delhi during Diwali festival, the average ambient noise level on Diwali ranged from 76 to 80 dB A , which was 1.
Neighborhood noise can also create an unfriendly atmosphere, misunderstandings, and hostility. The World Health Organization has listed critical health effects, with corresponding noise levels and exposure time in specific environmental settings. The adverse health effects of noise are auditory disorders such as hearing impairment, tinnitus, ear ache, noise-induced hearing loss, and non-auditory manifestations which include headache, psychological disturbances manifested by irritability, inability to concentrate on one's work thereby reducing work efficiency, disturbance in sleep and rest, and interference with speech communication.
Hearing impairment has been defined as an increase in the threshold of hearing. Noise-induced hearing impairment mainly occurs in the frequency range of 3,, Hz, and with increased exposure, at lower frequencies. Speech intelligibility can be reduced even at 10 dB, averaged over 2,, Hz, over both ears. Above 30 dB hearing impairment averaged over 2,, Hz, over both ears , a social hearing handicap is noticeable.
Significant hearing impairment occurs on exposure to prolonged exposure to noise levels of dB. Noise-induced hearing loss has been scientifically established as an adverse health effect of noise. With chronic exposure, permanent threshold shift occurs. In this case, hearing loss becomes permanent due to irreversible damage to the sensory cells of the cochlea. Noise-induced hearing loss usually first affects the hearing threshold at high frequencies above the range of speech perception at around 4 kHz.
Hence, it is often not noticed till it becomes severe. Therefore, it is difficult to predict the extent of hearing loss a person will acquire when exposed to a certain noise. Though there are studies in India which have measured the level of community noise, there is scarce published literature on the health effects of community noise pollution.
However, such studies have been conducted in various countries. It is highly likely that similar consequences are occurring in India as well. A study among workers exposed to road traffic noise in Brazil reported that Those working in noisier areas were more affected Hearing loss was associated with the duration of exposure. It can lead to miscommunication, accidents, loss of livelihood, etc. It can be prevented or greatly reduced by periodic audiometric check-ups, ear protection, and awareness training.
Studies have also reported hypertension to be associated with noise exposure. A study conducted in Pakistan showed that workers exposed to high noise levels were more likely to be hypertensive Odds ratio: 4.
A primary psychologic response to noise is annoyance. At a noise level of 50 dB, an adult can get moderately annoyed, and around 55 dB, seriously annoyed.
Community Noise Pollution in Urban India: Need for Public Health Action
People who were annoyed by neighborhood noise over a long time were found to be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, and migraine.
People who were persistently annoyed by traffic noise were found to be at higher risk for respiratory health problems. Lower risk of annoyance-induced illness in older persons was suggested to be due to being concealed by senility.
Emotional stress triggered by noise was suggested to play a role in the respiratory problems in children.
Noise Pollution (Regulations And Control) Rule 2000-Environmental Protection Act 1986
A study conducted in Orissa found that, though people experienced noise-induced symptoms such as headache, bad temper, hearing problem, loss of concentration, and sleep disturbance, they were unaware of the ill-effects of noise on health. After-effects of sleep disturbance include headache and inability of concentrate in one's work and irritability.
Noise exposure among vulnerable groups, such as children, is an area of major concern. A comprehensive study among Austrian children observed that children in the noisier areas had manifested psycho-physiological changes.
Resting systolic blood pressure and urinary cortisol were raised. Elevated heart rate to a stressor reading test , and higher perceived stress symptoms were also observed. High impact loud sounds can cause more damage. Toys and fireworks are the major sources of such damaging sounds. Another serious issue is the exposure of young people to high noise levels which exceed dB LAeq, in places of entertainment.
LAeq is the Equivalent Continuous Level. When a noise varies over time, the Leq is the equivalent continuous sound which would contain the same sound energy as the time-varying sound. Frequent exposure to such high noise levels could significantly cause hearing impairment.
As per the Global Burden of Disease Report of the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of moderate to severe hearing loss 41 decibels or greater was million, and mild hearing loss decibels was million.
Measurement of Noise
In India, the prevalence of hearing loss was estimated to be 63 million 6. Fortunately, hearing loss due to community noise pollution is largely preventable.
Preventive and control measures have been recommended, viz. In industry setting, personal protective equipment such as ear muffs and ear plugs are required.
Above all, awareness of the public and stakeholders is the key component in the prevention and control of community noise pollution. Basic and essential information should be extensively disseminated, such as noise levels created by common sources of noise pollution, adverse health effects on both the person creating noise, and the public preventive measures and conditions punishable under law.
School campaigns, health education programs, and publicizing through print and electronic media can actively address this issue. Involvement of non-governmental organizations in generating public interest and co-operation, and providing audiological facilities will immensely help the cause.
Further exploratory studies are urgently required in India.
Socio-demographic factors and determinants of noise-induced health effects, co-morbidities, population-specific thresholds for normal or impaired hearing should be studied. Source of Support: Nil. Conflict of Interest: None declared. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Indian J Community Med. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Address for correspondence: Dr. E-mail: moc.