The present generation and the coming generations have to solve three grave problems, namely, population, poverty and pollution-especially noise if they have to survive. Noise pollution being the most dangerous problem like cancer in which death is sure but slow. Noise pollution is a killer and is assuming dangerous proportions throughout the country, therefore we need to stop the noise!.
Noise, in recent years, has emerged as a challenge to human life, and now has rather become a permanent feature in the normal life of everyone. There is hardly any religious ceremony, or a celebration and festival in this country that is performed without noise. A worrying trend of noise pollution in recent years is the indiscriminate use of loudspeakers, especially in the idyllic rural setting of the country-making the once serene nature of the villages ‘a hell to live in”. The problem is further compounded by the rapid growth of urbanization. This is the gift of modern living, industrialization and urbanization, and unless timely action is taken we would have a bleak future for the world.
Is your home noise free?
Take each day in your life or around 6.00p.m. After a hard day’s work you get home and the generator is on, the stereo is blaring from your teenager’s bedroom, the television is on, religious activity going on in the neighbourhood, screams coming from your children or younger siblings room, all the while you are trying to help your child or younger sibling with his/her homework.
Imagine instead, in each situation mentioned, and quite existed. Have you considered how your lives would be different- imagine the same home without the background noise. Turn off the television, turn down the volume on the stereo and lower the voices. Imagine your own life with periods of quiet built into each day.
What we forget is that in the short term, noise could causes stress, and as most of us understand, stress is terrible for your health. But, also in the long term, noise could cause hearing loss which is detrimental to your health. Whether at home, at work, religious activities, sale and vending of cassettes, recreational activities, continued exposure to noise present serious health hazard.
Noise harms more than ears-the sleep
Studies have shown that, intermittent and impulsive noise is more disturbing than continuous noise, so when you area sleep and religious activities are going on and off, because it is either speaking in tongues or driving away the evil spirits or making a joyful noise, in all these cases it disturbs and disrupts. When this is chronic, adverse health effects are great. The Environmental Protection Agency identified an indoor day-night average sound level (DNL) of 45 dBA (equivalent to a night-time average sound level of 35 dBA) to protect against sleep disturbance.
Noise Control-Action Now
Noise control must be in the hands of each and everyone-as a people, there is the ability to take an active role in reducing noise in our homes, religious centers, businesses and the communities to regain control over your life.
In many cases, the solution is simple… just turn down the volume. In other cases, the process is long and sometimes grueling, but with support from the enforcement agencies, traditional rulers’ assemblies and an organisation such as the EPA, we can take steps to preserve the peace and quiet in our lives.
How is noise measured?
The standard for measuring noise is in decibels. For instance the zero on a decibel scale is at the threshold of hearing, the lowest sound pressure that can be heard, on the scale and 20 db is described as a whisper, 40 db the noise in a quiet office . 60 db is normal conversation, 80 db is the level at which sound becomes physically painful.
The Noise quantum of some of the cities in our country indicate their pitch in decibel in the nosiest areas of corresponding cities, e.g. Accra- 80 db, Kumasi- 87,Bombay-85, Takoradi-89 db etc.
Beyond this what can one do?
Although more research is necessary, anecdotal reports to the hospitals indicated that noise has devastating effects on health. People report that noise interferes with the ability to sleep, eat and causes a wide range of health problems which affects the overall quality of life. People not only have the right to peace and quiet, their health depends on it.
How to Comply
Noise control is one area in which most Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies fail to provide fairly specific requirements and enforcement for their area of operation. Though there are requirements for protecting the communities from exposure to excessive noise that duty is neglected.
What the Law Says-Agenda 21
Agenda 21 a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development is a product of the Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
This non-binding action plan commends countries to develop integrated strategies to maximise compliance with laws and regulations relating to sustainable development including ‘’enforceable, effective laws, regulations and standards that are based on sound economic, social and environmental principles violations, obtain redress and deter future violations.’’
It further requires countries to develop criteria for maximum permitted safe noise exposure levels and promote noise assessment and control as part of environmental health programmes.
The Writer is the Chief Programme Officer in charge of Public Relations, Gender and Climate Change at the Environmental Protection Agency.
By Mrs Angelina Ama Tutuah Mensah