After I finally convince my toddler to settle for his nap, I step out to my garden at the back of my suburban home. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the wind is gently rustling the trees in my sanctuary. I take a deep breath and catch a whiff of Linden blossom. Ahhh… perfect. I will meditate outside toda…
Of course. Our backyard neighbour, who we have (not so affectionately) labelled “Lawnmower Man,” is partaking in his favourite daily pastime. He is promptly joined by:
BEEP BEEP BEEP, RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE!!!
Three doors down from Lawn Mower Man live the people whose backyard has been under extensive renovation, complete with big trucks, earth moving equipment, and every imaginable power tool, for the past 3 months, 9-5, every day.
“Noise Pollution. “ The term sounds somewhat untangible, rather non-existent, as if it were invented by cranky people like me.
But it turns out that noise pollution has real health consequences. The effects are wide-ranging and vary from increased stress, to hearing loss, to sleep deprivation, to (believe it or not) things as serious as heart disease and increased blood pressure http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307272/.
Children may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of excessive noise. Fetuses, premature babies, and children with particular disabilities can suffer irreversible harm when exposed, and noise has even been linked to cognitive impairment in children. Children are also unable to distinguish harmful volumes, and their behaviours (concerts, headphones) can contribute to excessive exposures.
Research on the health effects of noise pollution have led to rules, regulations and guidelines around the amount and timing of loud noise. The WHO published guidelines on this topic. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/1999/a68672.pdf
But, one can only limit noise so far. City life goes on. Streets must be paved, and buildings, built. For those of us who choose to live in the busy world of lawn mowers and renovations, construction, and road work, we simply can’t avoid these things. When all of this noise is a regular occurrence in a “quiet” suburban neighbourhood, I can’t even imagine living in a busy urban area. Downtown Toronto? No thanks!
Now, some noise isn’t necessary. Things like incessant lawn mowing, and idling vehicles can easily be controlled. Frustrated by the noise, smell and pollution produced by gas-powered mowers, my husband and I got a manual push mower, and never looked back. They’re not difficult to use, and we’re not sure why more people don’t. I really wish Lawnmower Man would invest in one.
Every rumble or buzz of a machine is a loud reminder of the necessity of finding quiet, green places. So, I use every opportunity to grab my children, my husband, and my rattled nerves and escape to local conservation areas. We can usually still hear traffic from a distance, but it is substantially muted. And, every year, when we take a camping trip to Algonquin park, we bask in the splendid silence, punctuated only by rustling leaves, chirping birds, and the occasional squirrel scolding us for disturbing HIS peace and quiet.