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Understanding Noise Pollution

How do you define “noise”? Whether it’s the TV playing in a different room while you’re trying to sleep, or traffic whizzing outside your home, noise pollution not only is a real hazard to your health, but one that can disrupt the natural rhythm of your life. According to Conserve Energy Future, six things contribute to the noise in your life, including industrialization, poor urban planning, social events, transportation, construction activities and household chores that use noisy appliances like blenders or washing machines. The effects of all this pollution can cause health issues, sleeping disorders and cardiovascular problems, to name a few.

In the grand scheme of all things that are not healthy, noise pollution is an often-overlooked source of environmental stress. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that 100 million people are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise, typically from automobile and aircraft traffic, although everything from leaf blowers and lawnmowers to loud music can also contribute.

The definition of noise was set in the 1970s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which set a recommended noise exposure limit of 55 decibels in a 24-hour period, with nighttime noise weighted more heavily because it can interfere with sleep. For comparison, a quiet suburb has a decibel level of about 50, while freeway traffic is closer to 70 and a chain saw is 120 decibels.

An interesting side note to this, however, is that noise pollution and air pollution often go hand in hand, meaning you’re essentially exposed to a double whammy when you’re talking about either of them. When it comes to numbers, nearly half of Americans are breathing polluted air, adding to the risk of heart disease, cancers, stroke and infertility.

So what can you do to reduce these pollutants? With air pollution, simple strategies at home include opening your windows, decorating with plants, servicing or replacing your appliances — which can help with both air and noise pollution — and installing air and water filtration devices.

High-quality air purifiers using photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) is one of the best technologies available. Rather than merely filtering the air, PCO actually cleans the air using ultraviolet light. Unlike filters, which simply trap pollutants, PCO transforms the pollutants into nontoxic substances. In addition to using them in your home, portable air purifiers are available to take with you when you work or travel.

With noise pollution, if you live in a very noisy area, you may want to consider moving. If that isn’t possible, consider adding acoustical tile to your ceiling or double-paneled windows to your home. Ear plugs or noise-silencing headphones can also help. If noise is an issue during the night, you may want to consider adding pink noise, such as a recording of wind or constant rain, to your bedroom.

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