Gobar Times
Open Forum

Out of Tune

    Out of tune   

Tomorrow is the history exam, and you are trying to concentrate on ‘battle of Plassey.’ But blaring loudspeakers have been driving you distracted. All of us have sometimes wanted to plug our ears to shut out the racket. When does music become noise?

Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today.But it is an inescapable by-product of urbanisation and industrialisation. Any sound that intrudes into our daily activities, is unwanted or offensive, is noise. And road traffic, jet planes, construction work, factories and appliances all contribute to the audible litter that we hear everyday.

Noise beats A study found that if 75 normal healthy individuals are exposed for 10-15 years to noise of 88-107 decibels for 6-8 hours each day, 18 per cent of them have irregular cardiac rhythms.

    Full blast   

Tomorrow is the history exam, and you are trying to concentrate on ‘battle of Plassey.’ But blaring loudspeakers have been driving you distracted. All of us have sometimes wanted to plug our ears to shut out the The World Health Organisation has fixed 45 decibels as the safe noise level for a city. India also has limits set for maximum levels of noise and they vary for different areas of a city.

It is 55 decibels for residential areas, 65 decibels for commercial areas and 75 decibels for industrial areas. For silent zones (hospitals and educational institutions) the limit is 50. At night noise levels are supposed to be lower still and laws state that loudspeakers cannot be used between 10 pm and 6 am. But metropolitan areas in India usually register an average that is more than 90 decibels. Mumbai tops the charts as the third noisiest city in the world and Delhi follows close on its heels.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) says that vehicles make most of the din in the capital. Delhi has the highest number of two-wheelers in the world and these make the maximum noise per passenger than any other vehicle.

    Sound effects   

So noise is irritating. But it isn’t really harmful is it? Well, animals change migration routes to avoid noise and military sonar disturbs marine animals (see box). And studies seem to suggest that loud noise levels have some serious physiological and psychological effects on humans too. Our ears are a finely tuned mechanism and can catch weak sounds at zero decibels in a quiet environment. But when the volume starts rising, the ears rebel. At 120 decibels ears register pain and sounds measuring 150 decibels can rupture the eardrum. But the damage may start much earlier, at 90 decibels. Noise pollution may also cause irritability, indigestion, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

    Un-sound Laws   

But the government seems unaware of the risks and noise laws were formulated very late. The CPCB set standards for noise pollution in 1989 and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) formulated Noise Pollution Rules only in 2000. And these laws are flouted regularly. For instance, MOEF banned manufacture of firecrackers that generate more noise than 125 decibels. The firecracker industry was also asked to print noise levels on wrappers. But none of this was implemented. Laws by themselves are obviously not enough. So, for now, it seems that the people have to just grin and bear with the noisy din.

    Seasick of noise   

Dolphins could be dying because of noise pollution. Noise from US navy sonar and oil exploration activities make the dolphins dive deeper. When they dive, nitrogen is squeezed out of their lungs and bubbles into the bloodstream. When they surface, the dolphins breathe out to get rid of the bubbles. But noise from sonar can make the nitrogen bubbles so big that they block blood vessels and crush nerves.

    Seasick of noise   

Dolphins could be dying because of noise pollution. Noise from US navy sonar and oil exploration activities make the dolphins dive deeper. When they dive, nitrogen is squeezed out of their lungs and bubbles into the bloodstream. When they surface, the dolphins breathe out to get rid of the bubbles. But noise from sonar can make the nitrogen bubbles so big that they block blood vessels and crush nerves.

 

 

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Out of Tune