Dossier: Paisajes sonoros - Observatori del Paisatge

en la prensa

29 de Junio de 2008

Does noise pollution really matter?

The everyday racket of life not only pollutes our soundscape, it also damages our health. Lucy Siegle says silence is golden


The Guardian (Regne Unit) [Artículo de opinión]

I'm sad to report there's yet another wilderness to add to the rapidly growing list of endangered habitats. This time it's our 'soundscape', defined as the natural sounds unique to each area, which is rapidly being homogenised, as local birdsong and the whispering of the wind in the trees (notching up 10 decibels, or dBs, as opposed to a vacuum cleaner at 80) are drowned out by the cacophony of aircraft and traffic noise. There are new noisy interlopers too: car alarms, the never-ending rumble of freight trucks, not to mention helicopters and planes.

To be fair, it's probably not so much that nobody is listening, as nobody can actually hear. The latest National Noise survey tells a tale of diminishing tranquillity. Only 57 per cent of UK respondents this year said they could enjoy quiet time in their gardens, a drop of two per cent on the previous year.

I concede that worrying about the loss of soundscape could sound a bit whimsical. But in fact it's alarmingly relevant and far from just a pure conservation issue. It is estimated 44 per cent of Europeans (more than 210m people) are regularly exposed to noise levels considered potentially dangerous to health, while each year 245,000 people in the EU suffer cardiovascular diseases 'provoked' by traffic noise.

Big noise predictably equals big carbon. Not that green stuff can be exonerated from any noise nuisance blame; the swishing and lashing of wind turbines is cited as a major factor in turning down planning applications for wind farms.

To immediately shrink your noise contribution, remember that the quieter driver is also an eco driver. If you're not going to swap to a bicycle, at least swap your car tyres for quiet versions. Eco label the Nordic Swan denotes ultra low-noise rubber versions. In studies, this trumps all sorts of noise-abatement techniques, including sound proofing buildings. Drive slower, too: reducing vehicle speed in a residential area to 19mph from 31mph leads to a reduction of 2.5dB.

On land, sea and air an exponential increase in noise seems to have a marked effect on wildlife population and fish stocks, and ultimately diminishes the earth's carrying capacity (its ability to provide life-sustaining resources). And while some pay lip service to the environmental impacts of oil (spillages, drilling, etc), unless you've ever been near a diesel-powered drill rig you'll have little idea of the sound effects; workers liken the turbines, which run continuously, to jet engines. In virgin exploration territory the effects on wildlife are irreversible.


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