Tackling The Menace Of Noise Pollution —Tayo Ogunbiyi



Sound that is detrimental for human hearing is called noise. When there is a lot of noise in the environment, it amounts to what is known as noise pollution. Noise pollution occurs from various sources. For instance, there is street noise, traffic noise, noise from motor parks and vehicular movements, noise from worship centres, noise in playgrounds, sporting centres and parks, noise in the shopping malls, noise in workplaces among others. Airports equally constitute veritable source of noise pollution. Those who live in such neighbourhoods will readily authenticate this fact. Sound is measured in a unit known as decibels. Though there is no fixed particular decibel limit to decide when sound becomes noise, it is understood that a continuously high decibel limit will constitute noise pollution. Some areas do designate their own sound limits, which of course vary from one legislation to another. In the United States, for instance, most states have a sound limit of 65 dB in the daytime and 55 dB in the nighttime, applicable to the streets. Anyone crossing this limit would be causing noise pollution.

Noise pollution can take a severe toll on human health in the long run. These effects will not become apparent immediately, but there could be repercussions later on. According to the proceedings of the 2007 World Health Organization Conference on noise pollution, it was agreed among experts that noise causes severe mental health problems, sleep deprivation, hearing impairment, high blood pressure, and many other diseases. The most immediate effect of noise pollution is, however, a deterioration of mental health. As an example, people who are living too close to airports will probably be quite nervous. Continuous noise can create panic episodes in a person and can even raise frustration levels. Also, noise pollution is a big deterrent in focusing the mind to a particular task. Over time, the mind may just lose its capacity to concentrate on things. This explains why researchers and academics prefer to live in quiet neighbourhoods where they could stay close to nature foe effective concentration. Another immediate effect of noise pollution is a deterioration of the ability to hear things clearly. Even on a short-term basis, noise pollution can cause temporary deafness. But if the noise pollution continues for a long period of time, there’s a danger that the person might go stone deaf. Perhaps more importantly, it is instructive to state that noise pollution could also have a dangerous effect on the heart. According to medical practitioners, it has been observed that the rate at which heart pumps blood increases when there is a constant stimulus of noise pollution. This could lead to side-effects like elevated heartbeat frequencies, palpitations, breathlessness and the like, which may even lead to cardiac arrest. Noise pollution can cause dilation in the pupils of the eye, which could interfere in ocular health in the later stages of life. Noise pollution is equally known to increase digestive spasms. This could be the precursor of chronic gastrointestinal problems.

From the foregoing, it is quite obvious that as seemingly harmless as noise pollution might be to majority of the people, it, nevertheless, constitutes serious health hazards to human lives, especially those who live in vulnerable locations. In Lagos State, the major sources of noise pollution include, motor parks, worship centers and road side music centres. Indeed, it is common knowledge that most worship centres in the state are located in residential areas and the noise generated from these places often become a major source of pain to most residents who find it hard to sleep at nights because of activities emanating from most of these centres. It has become so alarming , in recent time, that in order to regulate the noise coming from such worship centres, the State government recently clamped down on some of them. Similarly, the state experiences disturbing noises from road side music vendors whom, in a bid to attract prospective buyers’ attention, often blare the sound of the music they are advertising to a very ridiculous level. Areas where this happens frequently include, Agege, Oshodi, Mile 2, Ojota, Ajegunle, Iyana Ipaja, Ikorodu, Iyana Iba, Ikotun-Egbe, CMS, Ojuelegba, Ikeja, Ojodu- Berger among others. Other sources of noise pollution in the state include factories, nite clubs, street trading, and social parties to mention but a few.

The agency that regulates activities that impact on the environment in Lagos is the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). The agency’s stance is clear on issue of noise pollution level permitted. This has been communicated to all stakeholders in the state. According to LASEPA, the level of noise allowed in the state is between 55 decibel during the day and 42 to 45 decibel at night. In order to ensure compliance to this position, the agency recently organised a stakeholders’ meeting in which it communicated the position of the state government to them as well as rub minds together on how to guarantee strict conformity to the noise level requirement in the state. On its part, the state government has demonstrated sufficient proof to drive home its zero tolerance for noise pollution in the state. It is, therefore, determined to reduce noise pollution in the state because of the anomalies and diseases related to it. Indeed, it is on record that the present administration has pointed the way forward in this regard by discouraging the use of siren among its political office holders. The governor of the state, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) does not make use of siren in the discharge of his official duties irrespective of the traffic situation.

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However, in as much as governments across the country are making their efforts for controlling noise pollution, it is important to appreciate the difficult and complex nature of the task. There is a need for stakeholders to come out with relevant plans and strategies to tackle the ugly trend of noise pollution in our society. Growing trees is a very significant way in which roadside noise can be curtailed. Trees act as buffers for absorbing the sound that is produced on the streets and hence reduce noise pollution. That is the reason why roads with trees on both sides seem to be more silent and peaceful. This, of course, is one area where the Lagos state government has made significant in -road in recent time. With regards to worship centres, it is important that they comply with the state’s standard on noise while it is equally necessary that most of them begin to make use of sound proof equipment to reduce noise during their worship services, either during the daytime or at nights. The practice of making use of horn speakers that tend to disturb residents should be discouraged. In a place like Lagos where people daily experience stress, it will be rather unfair for people to get home, after a stressful day, only to be faced with the threat of unwanted noise. If we want to maintain a sane society, this practice must stop.

Similarly, motorists should desist from indiscriminate use of horns unless it is absolutely necessary. We all know how easily traffic sound limits are trespassed when there is a traffic jam. We might be desperate to get through, but honking horns will not solve any issues. It will only add to the already aggravated stress level. Equally factory workers should make it a point to wear earplugs and muffs while it is imperative that factory owners provide these necessary devices for their workers. In case it does not exist already, the various legislative arms of governments across the country should begin to work on relevant legislations that will help in curbing noise pollution in the country. The prevalence of major life threatening diseases is already causing enough health hazards in the land. Hence, it is only sensible that we shun all human induced activities that could further endanger human lives. The time to act is now!

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja