Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Noise is everywhere, especially in urbanized areas. Most of us have neglected the impact of noise pollution and see it as a norm. Little did we know that, according to the World Health Organization, it is the second biggest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution. Across Europe every year, studies from 2012 has suggested it has contributed to 910,000 additional cases of hypertension and 10,000 premature deaths related to coronary heart diseases or strokes.
So why does it seem that no one voices out as much about noise pollution?
As comparison to other waste pollution like chemical, air, oil and etc, noise is invisible. Other tangible and easily quantifiable pollution can be seen to be more alarming when a certain amount is exposed. For example, when an oil spill from a tanker happens, pictures of the incident will immediately cause huge conundrum for authorities and service providers. However, most people cannot imagine the severity of noise pollution unless they could actually hear the impact of the pollution. As said by Dr Shailendra, “You don’t consider it as something bad because you’ve been exposed to it all your life”. “But it’s because you’ve been exposed to it your whole life, that it does affect you. But you don’t realise the importance of it until it reaches that point where the effect is permanent and you can’t recover.”  That will be the worrying part when the effect becomes irreversible.
Let’s look at this issue closer and why it is so.
Rapid Urban Development
Due to rapid urbanization, more and more high rise buildings are built to accommodate the influx of people from outskirt. This has also inadvertently contributed to crowded environment and congested traffic. Property developers are competing with each other to build as many as possible to reap as much benefit as possible. In some countries, the situation becomes worse when the local town council does not have a proper or well thought out township development plan. This ends up that the buildings are haphazardly located and are built without proper planning for noise control. For example, the staircase of a hotel or apartment could be directly facing the room. Moreover, the building did not construct with insulation materials or install proper noise control solutions. This inadvertently causes the noise to transmit into the residential room easily. The person living in it would be plagued with all the surrounding noises from the street especially at night.
Of course this is one segment that happens in the urban areas. There are areas that becomes urbanized while in the past it was an industrial area. We could see this example happens when the city area is getting overpopulated and the adjacent suburbs get developed. The land arounds the industrial area is usually relatively cheaper compared to those in the urban areas. Therefore, the developers will take this opportunity to develop it into the township. However, most of the time, because they do not put into the consideration of noise control, it ends up some of the residential areas might be directly next to a factory. If the factory carries out a lot of heavy industrial work, it could potentially be producing a lot of high level noise. This could be equivalent to be staying next to an airport! Only until recently, some developers do take up the initiative to plant trees around the residential areas in order to reduce the noise impact from the streets. Otherwise, it may need a concerted effort from the community to start a protest to get the attention of the local council to take action.
Lack of Regulation, Enforcement and Governance in Environmental Law
On the other hand, lack of proper regulation and enforcement is disastrous. Companies from countries in the Europe and Australasian will have to comply the noise level requirements before they build a new building, factory or carry out any construction activities. Proper measures, like installing silencers, enclosures, putting up barriers, use insulation materials, are a must. However, in other countries, it might not be the case when the enforcement and government are not up to par.
This is not only the duty of the Department of Environment. This includes the responsibility of the politicians, local councils, enforcement officers, and even down to the individual. Firstly, I believe that most countries would have proper regulations in place to govern environmental pollution. Even if there are cases that some countries do not have in place, they should put in effort to draw up the relevant law regulation. Meanwhile, enforcement and governance are important. They must make sure the relevant officers take the right actions while the higher management should develop proper framework or workflow to allow the enforcement officers to carry their job effectively. Subsequently the authorities must have the right values that their job is important to protect the people from all these threats and allow people to live in good and safe environment. Lastly, if all fails, we, people of the society, should take up the initiative to either directly or indirectly involve to curb this.
Perception on High Cost Implementation
Of course, nothing can go without financial consideration. It can be quite costly to install all the noise control measures and even to just put in the consideration to design a building with noise control in mind. This will no doubt increase the cost of most developers, government and even consumers. So this will be an issue if it is worthwhile for us to afford such a cost. Every consumer will want to pay the most affordable price as possible, while most business owners will want to gain a good profit margin. Thus unless there is an intervention from the government or authorities, it will be difficult for businesses and consumers to adopt. Although some may know the possible health impact, when you are considering the cost and the long term health impact, the health impact is almost always being sidelined unless it has already caused harm.
Lack of Education and Awareness
As a result, proper education and awareness is really important. For the past numerous years, we know that plastics are not good for our environment and smoking is bad for health. Today we still see many people are using plastics and smoking heavily. Fortunately, in some countries, recently there are huge push to reduce in the usage of plastics with various videos, like microplastics in the seas and dead animals that have inhaled plastics, to show the actual consequences. This has nonetheless impossible without a good education since young and good effort to push for social media awareness. For example, in country like Japan, they take up the initiative to pick up all the rubbish after the world cup match. This is a vivid example of good upbringing and law enforcement in the country. At the same time, there are many eco-friendly companies mushrooming to manufacture products that are environmentally friendly.
In the case of the noise pollution, we do need a considerable effort in educating our younger generation that it has been long forgotten due to prolonged endurance in the highly urbanized environment. Meanwhile, public policy should be in place to ensure that people are aware about noise pollution and also enforcement on its regulation.
Lastly, we believe that all sectors, including every single individual, need to put in the right effort to ensure that we are living in a healthy, sustainable and happy environment, without all the pollution including noise as well.
1. Loud Noises Are Slowly Ruining Your Health October 26, 2016, David Hillier, (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ppvkwb/is-excessive-noise-messing-with-your-health)
2. In Search Of Silence March 21, 2017, Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup, (https://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/03/222998/search-silence)
KSM Group (www.ksmgroup.co) is a company that focuses on solving noise issues for commercial and industrial sectors, dedicating to making environments smarter and more efficient.
Established in 1983, KSM Group has since evolved from a humble electrical company to trusted distributed and partner to some of the world’s biggest brands. In addition, we design and manufacture our Phoenix range of in-house noise control equipment. We are the first local manufacturer of top quality blowdown silencers. We achieve ISO 9001 recognition in 2000, a global standard for quality management systems. Our testing lab is the first in Malaysia for air distribution system silencers based on ISO 7235.