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We need to listen to the facts over all the noise

author Published by Admins

Auditory overload is an increasing public health concern, and it has been shown repeatedly that it is detrimental to our physical and mental health. Now, the problem has been recently linked to serious cardiovascular problems as it has been discovered that one in twenty heart attacks in cities can be linked to noise pollution.

It begs the question that if humans are harmed to this extent – what does it mean for wildlife? Our National Sprawl Study points out:

Anthropogenic noise from cars, trucks, and motorcycles, railroads, airport takeoffs and landings, compressors, factories, oil and gas exploration and development, and even amplified music from loudspeakers encroaches deeply into natural habitats and adversely affects wildlife through behavioral disruption, acoustic masking, and increased stress response. One recent study found that human noise doubled background sound levels in a majority of our nation’s protected natural areas, caused a 10-fold or greater increase in noise in 21 percent of these areas (surpassing noise levels known to interfere with human visitor experience), and significantly impaired habitats of endangered species.

This means that flora and fauna are exposed relentlessly to the noises we generate, making it harder for them to flourish in their natural habitats. The ability to hunt prey and mate are negatively affected, and it even affects the growth of vegetation.

Yet, the impact that noise has on animals and habitats extends beyond those on the surface. Just because humans can’t hear as clearly underwater as on land doesn’t mean that the noise we’re creating isn’t an issue. Researchers have been taking a closer look at the problem and uncovered a whole world of noise that we may have been oblivious to despite the logical connection.

Research has shown that animals such as whales and dolphins that use sound for their survival have been encountering problems communicating with each other over the increase in noise levels from cargo ships. It can be assumed that there are more cargo ships crossing the ocean because there is an increase in population and therefore an increase in the consumption of goods.

The results are that whales, for example, are being forced to yell over the noise of propellers. Indeed, there has been a 32-fold increase in sound along the most popular shipping routes over the last half century, which is the same time frame that the United State’s population has escalated from 200 million to 333 million. This has had unmistakable effects on marine life. Similar to the human-driven perils faced by wildlife inhabiting our land, whales and dolphins are also having a harder time with hunting, mating, and sleeping.

Clearly noise creates a myriad of problems for humans and wildlife alike, and it is deeply concerning that there are groups that are essentially powerless to prevent or escape it. For instance, while the relatively wealthy can leave noisy areas for places that offer peace and quiet, as we continue to pack into cities and sprawl across open space, access to nature is diminished, especially for those at the lower levels of the economic spectrum.

The urban sprawl and city life brings with it noise that both wildlife on land and in water, along with vegetation, are left to cope with this new reality. While there are mitigating factors that can be employed to lessen the overall impact, the unfortunate truth is that more people will inevitably create more noise – even if doing so unintentionally. And it is clear that every living being on our planet is sensitive to noise pollution.

Our national population continues to rise due to Congress’s inability to act to reverse our historically high levels of immigration. Of course, there is no legitimate claim or argument that people immigrate to our country to create noise. Yet, as alluded to earlier, the addition of more consumers drives the need for more products, many of which are shipped or flown globally, and it further increases the amount of people aboard cruise ships or planes. All of these factors combine to produce an immense amount of noise pollution.

Amy Boylan is the Content Writer for NumbersUSA’s Sustainability Initiative

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