A large section of New York's population could be deaf by the year 2,000--it only requires noise levels to continue increasing at the present rate.
A large section of New York's population could be deaf by the year 2,000--it only requires noise levels to continue increasing at the present rate. Shock scientific forecasts like this one have galvanised the administration into planning a code to control noise. Urban noise pollution is an international problem, and it's going to require concerned action if human health and sanity are to be preserved.
Administrators in New York have already discovered that there is no easy solution to the problem. For example, although the city's proposed legislation would control noise from construction sites, loudspeakers and even air conditioners, two of the worst irritants--air and most road traffic--fall outside the city's jurisdiction.
On a couple of days this summer, cameraman On Wing Lee toured the city to bring back a sound report of the everyday cacophony that New Yorkers have learned to live with. He also went out on patrol with the city's "Noise-mobile"--a mobile laboratory equipped to measure in decibels (dBA) the increase in noise pollution--and questioned Environmental Control Commissioner Jerome Kretchmer about the magnitude of the problem:
SYNOPSIS: A typical working day in New York. Step out of a sound-proofed office, and the noise hits you in wave Chances are, if you're a New Yorker, you won't notice it. But the scientists do and they're viewing the steady rise in noise pollution with increasing alarm. Experts claim that if noise levels are allowed to increase unchecked, then practically everyone in the city will deaf by the year 2,000.
To save its citizens from being deafened, the authorities are drawing up a noise control code. Legislation is already planed to control noise from construction equipment, loudspeakers, over air-conditioners. But other major irritants, such as road and air traffic mostly fall outside the city's jurisdiction. So the authorities are hoping for legislation at national level. In the meantime, it's computed that noise in New York is increasing at the rate of one decibel a year. To the layman, a decibel more or less probably doesn't make much difference. But New York's noise level currently stands between 85 and 90 dBA--decibels measured in a scale compatible with the human ear. In some quarters, that's considered the maximum safe noise level that the human ear can withstand over prolonged periods. So that annual one-decibel increase is viewed with real alarm:
New York's Environmental Control Commissioner gave the latest assessment of the noise menace:
As with most manmade pollution, noise growth can be stopped--but it's going to be expensive. Some firms already claim cuts in noise produced by cars and air raft. But the increase of total traffic volume offsets this. Until some effective standard of control is introduced, human hearing--and sanity--will suffer.