Noise is a health issue

There is a vast amount of information confirming that unwanted noise is an acoustic contaminant with profound implications for human health.

Andrew Holota’s recent column (The Leader, Aug. 18) about blueberry propane cannons was spot on, yet not nearly emphatic enough about the harm caused by noise.

There is a vast amount of information confirming that unwanted noise is an acoustic contaminant with profound implications for human health. The World Health Organization and other medical and environmental groups have found that unwanted noise is not just a nuisance or annoyance, but a serious threat to physical and mental well-being.

Unwanted sound at any level can interfere with sleep (and still affect you even when it doesn’t actually wake you); raise blood pressure; increase heart rate; increase the risk of heart disease; impair concentration, productivity and learning; increase stress; affect mental health; and overall reduce your quality of life. At its extreme, unwanted noise can result in violence and murder.

Anti-noise pollution groups exist all over the world, including here in Vancouver. The mainstream media is full of articles and reports (including a 2001 CBC Marketplace documentary) observing the relentless increase in noise pollution in our society and the harm it causes. Several books have been published, most recently Why Noise Matters, which argues that noise is the most neglected green issue of our age.

Given the compelling evidence that unwanted noise is harmful to human health, the question is how and why Surrey council can remain so abysmally ignorant of this fact.

Fourteen years ago, the City of Vancouver Urban Noise Task Force produced a comprehensive report with recommendations for improving Vancouver’s soundscape. This led to a series of materials on noise awareness and noise control called SoundSmart, which promotes individual responsibility towards noise and the need to avoid disturbing one’s neighbours and community.

It is only a matter of time until noise pollution, and its profound impairment of human health and quality of life, captures the serious attention it deserves in the wider public consciousness and on the political agenda.

And if Surrey truly aspires to live up to its self-hype as a socially and environmentally progressive city, Surrey council needs to pull its collective heads out of the sand and recognize – as have other more enlightened cities worldwide – that acoustic responsibility is a concept whose time not only has come, but is long overdue.


J. White



Surrey North Delta Leader

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