Quiet-List 1997

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Quiet-List F.A.Q.

Quiet-List  F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)

Version 1.1

Send corrections and additions to listowner "quiet@igc.org" 


1. How do I Subscribe/Unsubscribe/Post Messages? 
2. What is Noise Pollution?
3. How does the Decibel Scale work?
4. How loud does Noise have to be before it's Dangerous?
5. Doesn't the Law Protect me against Noise? 
6. Where are the Internet Sites for Noise Pollution?    


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   Noise pollution is not easily defined. Part of the difficulty lies in
the fact that in some ways it is different from other forms of pollution. 
   Noise is transient; once the pollution stops, the environment is free of
it.  This is not the case for chemicals, sewage, and other pollutants 
introduced into the air, soil, or water.  Other forms of pollution can be
measured, and scientists can estimate how much material can be introduced
into the environment before harm is done.  Though we can measure individual
sounds that may actually damage human hearing, it is difficult to monitor
cumulative exposure to noise or to determine just how much is too much.

   The definition of noise itself is highly subjective. To some people the 
roar of an engine is satisfying or thrilling; to others it is an annoyance.
Loud music may be enjoyable or a torment, depending on the listener and the

   Broadly speaking, any form of unwelcome sound is noise pollution, whether
it is the roar of a jet plane overhead or the sound of a barking dog a block 
away.  One measure of pollution is the danger it poses to health. Noise 
causes stress, and stress is a leading cause of illness and suicide. 
Therefore any form of noise can be considered pollution if it causes 
annoyance, sleeplessness, fright, or any other stress reaction. 

   The actual loudness of a sound is only one component of the effect it has 
on human beings. Other factors that have to be considered are the time and 
place, the duration, the source of the sound, and whether the listener has 
any control over it. Most people would not be bothered by the sound of a
21-gun salute on a special occasion. On the other hand, the thump-thump of a
neighbour's music at 2 a.m., even if barely audible, could be a major source
of stress.


   The decibel (dB) is a measure of sound intensity; that is, the magnitude 
of the fluctuations in air pressure caused by sound waves. The decibel scale
is logarithmic, not arithmetic. This means that a doubling of sound intensity
is not represented as a doubling of the decibel level. In fact, an increase 
of just 3 dB means twice as much sound, and an increase of 10 dB means ten 
times as much sound.

   A sound pressure level of 0 dB represents the threshold of hearing in the 
most sensitive frequency range of a young, healthy ear, while the thresholds 
of tickling or painful sensations in the ear occur at about 120 to 130 dB. 

   Decibels are usually measured with a filter that emphasizes sounds in 
certain frequencies. The "A" filter (dBA) is the one most frequently used.
The "C" filter (dBC) puts more weight on low-frequency sounds such as the
bass in amplified music.


   Because permanent hearing loss is usually a long-term process, it is
impossible to know at exactly what point noise becomes loud enough to cause
damage to the ears. However, many experts consider it unsafe to be exposed 
indefinitely to a sound level of 85 dBA or higher. 

   Workers are typically prohibited by regulation from being exposed to 
85 dBA for longer than eight hours a day. Since sound intensity doubles with 
every increase of 3 dB, the time of permitted exposure must be cut in half 
with each such increase. Thus a worker would have to wear ear protection if 
exposed to 88 dBA for four hours, 91 dBA for two hours, and so on.

   Using this measure of safety, the sound level in a typical night club,
110 dBA, would pose a risk of permanent hearing damage after less than two
minutes of exposure.

   Of course, noise is dangerous in other ways too. It can be a cause of
stress, illness, suicide, aggression, and violence. As stated above, the
volume of noise is only one component in its effect.


   In Canada and the United States there are no national, provincial, or
state laws that give blanket protection against noise, though there are some 
specific regulations governing manufacturing standards, air traffic, vehicle
mufflers, and so on. Criminal laws may also cover things like noisy parties. 

   Governments have traditionally viewed noise as a "nuisance" rather than
an environmental problem. As a result, most regulation has been left up to 
municipal authorities.

   Noise bylaws and ordinances vary widely from one municipality to another
and indeed do not even exist in some towns and cities. Where they exist, they
may contain a general prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance to 
other people, or they may set out specific guidelines for the level of noise 
allowable at certain times of the day and for certain activities. Exceptions 
are generally made for activities considered legitimate or necessary, such as
lawn-mowing or garbage collection. 

   Regardless of how lax or stringent a local law may be, enforcement is
difficult. Many municipalities do not have adequate resources to follow up
on complaints. Even where a municipality has an enforcement office, it may
be unwilling to do more than issue warnings, since taking offenders to court
is expensive. The police may also act on certain kinds of noise complaints, 
but generally do not assign them a high priority.

   For persistent nuisances, the individual may have to seek damages through 
the civil courts. This can be a long, costly procedure with no certainty of

   In short, legal protection against noise is very patchy and often 

(6) KEY SITES FOR NOISE POLLUTION (all sites prefixed "http://";)
   . Right to Quiet - "www.islandnet.com/~skookum/quiet" 

   . Noise Pollution Clearing House  - "www.nonoise.org"
   . U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) -

   . Concened Citizens Against Noise (C.C.A.N.)/Toronto -

   . The Noise Center - "www.lhh.org/noise"

   . World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) -  

   . The Quiet Use Coalition - email "jetchalk@chaffee.net"

   . Adverse Health Impacts of Airport Expansion - 

- - - - - - - - - - E N D   O F   F. A. Q. - - - - - - - - 

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