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Noise and Sound Pollution Essay

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Updated: Sep 29th, 2021


Little sound and noise we all require to live in the society but when this noise and sound becomes unbearable and very loud, it turns to noise and sound pollution. The word noise originated from the Latin term “nausea”, meaning uncalled for. “Noise is defined as unwanted sound; sound, which pleases the listeners is music and that which causes pain and annoyance is noise”. (Jaiswal & Jaiswal, 327) However, “Sound is a kind of energy that allows the particles in the air, a liquid or a solid to vibrate”. (Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers, Online)

For all living inside the arena of the technological world and amidst the cities and towns, noise has become a part of life except for all those fortunate who are still living in the laps of nature away from any busy roads, screaming industries and factories, sounds of loud music, etc. Twenty hours a day we have to bear these sounds and we have increased our toleration level and endurance towards them, but amidst this too when sound becomes too loud, it becomes unbearable causing health hazards.

Noise as one of the greatest hazards of this world

In the early years of the 1890s, journals of America and London raised the people’s consciousness towards noise as one of the greatest hazards of this world, but people had already got aware to the noise problem during the time when “Epic of Gilgamesh” was written and read in the 3rd millennium BC. In the Sumerian account of the flood, it was written, “in those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great God was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the Gods in council, “the uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel. So Gods in the heart were moved to let loose the diluge”.

Now the noise problem is no doubt has become a matter of grave concern for politicians, environmentalists, and basis for legal actions and a topic for health-conscious people. But rarely it is considered as a human problem that is a part of the system acoustic communications. Sound creates a relationship between the individual and environment whereas noise becomes a mediator but creates a negative impact on such mediations and makes the contact between the individual and communicator impossible; it also creates hindrance on the part of effective communications. But what constitutes noise and when sound becomes noise, the concept of this since Helmholtz has been, “the physical acoustic definition of noise has been that it is a non-periodic vibration, by comparison to musical sound, which has a periodicity and therefore a pitch”. (Traux, 95).

Noise pollution in law

However, music can also become a source of irritation and become a noise for someone who is unaccustomed and annoyed by it. As per law, the quantitative noise is defined functionally as regards to the sound’s intensity level to determine the extent to which it could be acceptable or not. The problem with the legislation law is finding out the right level above which the sound becomes unacceptable enough to be considered as noise. (Traux, 95) The noise pollution should be considered by the duration of the sound, the frequency of noise, and whether there is any control to the sound or not. The British Columbia Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has fixed the limitations of sound to be 85 decibels in the workplace and above it is harmful. If sound reaches 120 decibels, it becomes very painful and at 140, it is very harmful. However, at home the noise level above 50 decibels is quite normal and above 55 is serious. While in hospitals and schools, the safe level of sound is 35 decibels. (Ban the Canons, Online) The noise if reaches above the safe level cause tremendous impact on health like increase in stress, high blood pressure, loss of sleep, inability to concentrate and learn and loss of productivity. Noise pollution can impair hearing in children; reduce their attention level and cause negative impact on them.

We are staying in British Columbia and near the villages where farmer’s blast their cannons from dawn to dusk and they are very loud. They have the devices like leaf blowers that reciprocate the novel that reaches to the level of 75 or 80 decibels. The noise of the boom cars can reach till 100 decibels, but propane cannons can go to the range of 130 decibels. Though these canons are regulated by the British Columbia, they begin at 6: 30 am and blast until 8: 00 pm. And the areas, which are not regulated, farmers blast their cannons from dawn to dusk. The blast of propane cannons is like a shotgun, ranging between 120-130 decibels. From our home we often have to hear two blasts every single minute and many have to hear five to six blasts every single minute. These blasts occur during the berry season, which stretches from the month of late June to the whole month of October. It is claimed that these propane cannons are neither very necessary nor are very effective and the farmers are breaching the Langley Township Noise Bylaw. (Ban the Canons, Online).

Application of methods in real life

I did some thought-provoking methods to deal with the situation. I along with my neighbors prepared some brochures and campaigning plans and went personally to the farmer’s houses to explain them how much they are causing noise pollution and they should substitute these propane canons with some other method that do not make too much noise and are economically feasible too. Secondly we went to visit the local MLA to personally administer the farmer’s use of propane cannons and govern the farmers towards reducing the noise immersing from the use of cannons. Still the noisemakers are ignoring and bent on using the cannons above the normal decibels. Then I decided to contact the Minister of Agriculture, and the Farm Industry Review Board (FIRB). They have responsibility to pursue the right to Farm Legislation, which has the clause to allow the farmers to the use of the propane cannons. But, if they want they are entitled to modify or make changes in this legislation to check the farmers to control their use of cannons. Many of these issues like that of noise pollution comes under the Vancouver Charter whereby the powers of Council would be exercised by bylaw. The bylaws governing city of Vancouver are numbered beginning with by-law No 1 that is the law, which was enacted first and then continued subsequently. The first by law was passed on 18th May 1886 and then over many years around 10,000 laws have been passed. The Noise Bylaw of city controls and legalizes construction works, vehicles and noise immersing from households. (SoundSmart, Online) People also formed Urban Noise Task Force. This is a group of citizens, who with the help of the city staff and councilors recommends and makes suggestions to the city for making improvements in Vancouver’s soundscape. There is also on the anvil the Vancouver Transportation Plan. It had proposed that reviews should be conducted on the most important arterial roads in the city for their performance and the way they are dealt with and are being used in relationship to the neighbors. The city is also planning for the quite payment towards most important transportation corridors. The Urban Noise task force has been created to check on the increasing noise in the city and the extent to which it is affecting the daily lives of Vancouver.

In Canada, there are very few laws at the national, provincial, or state levels to govern the noise pollution. As a result, most of the Canadian and EU countries regulations of the law are governed at the municipal level. There are different noise laws and ordinances in municipalities among different areas. The laws constitute certain ordinances that may prohibit persons against creating noise or may place certain guidelines on the level of noise allowed for certain time duration. There is slight difference between the laws in the cities and villages as regards the control of noise pollution is concerned. In cities, there are several laws and governing bodies to check the lawbreakers while in the villages of British Columbia, either MLA can put a control on the noise pollution or there is right to Farm Legislation whose discretion is in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture, and the Farm Industry Review Board (FIRB). Particularly for British Columbia, there is one law, which is the Langley Township Noise Bylaw. For e.g. “the law states that the number of discharges from any noise scare device is limited to a maximum of one discharge in any three minute period of time”. (Noise Control by law 1988 No 2573, Online) The difficulty in the provision of the law is inability on the part of the province to control the direct use of the devices.

Sounds, which exceed the level more than determined, become noise. What makes one sound a noise is determined by the intensity of the volume of sound. It depends on the listening capacity of the people also. For many people what constitutes sound could be noise and for many what is noise is sound and for many, sound is a pleasure. When we look at the day-to-day to life, it is very simple to determine what constitutes sound and what constitutes noise. For e.g. when we listen to the music, it would sound very appealing to the ears and give soothing effect and if this music is interrupted by the other sounds like unnecessary playing of drums, or shouts of children or sounds of traffic on the roads, it would become a noise, which could be very irritating. But it is very difficulty to consider the same in case we have to determine sound and noise in theoretical terms and on the basis of its established set norms and prescribed limits. The legislation of each area or place has considered the proximate level of sound and if the sound reaches above that level, it becomes noise requiring strict consideration. The problems come in legislation in determining the nature of sound and in determining if really this sound is noise. If someone is typing something on a typewriter, it could be very annoying to someone even if its sound is low. It is also not necessary that unpitched sound is noise; it could be a sound from music as well.

The Truax model

The Truax model understands the relationship between the listener and the sound. This model describes the relationship between the listener and its environment, which is interfered with the help of the sound and triangular relationship, is therefore created. Any change occurring due to any one of the components either due to habituation, or any other disturbances has an effect on the soundscape and that what happened in this process.

The above example I cited is related to the environmental acoustics. “This acoustics studies show different frequencies behave during propagation. When the sound waves comes into contact with objects, its energy is transmitted through the object, absorbed within it, or reflected from it with varying degrees of efficiency depending on efficiency.” (Traux, 5) This happens when the cannons blow. They reciprocate the sound waves above the level prescribed. These sounds create a disturbance between the relation between the listener and its environment.

Every now and then we are facing the noise pollution and as it is difficult to analyze, more difficult is to follow the legislation. In Canada, the noise pollution is controlled at the Federal, provincial and municipal levels and government has adopted different roles and responsibilities as regards to the noise pollution issues. For e.g. Federal government has responsibility for ensuring noise pollution does not occur in case of consumer products, equipment, and vehicles. But, these regulations do not follow when these products are sold and after they are used and depleted. The sold and depleted products often exceed the prescribed sound levels, for which federal government is not responsible. The federal government has also mentioned about the guidelines for control of pollution through provincial transportation systems including aircraft, trains and waterways. As a part of its provincial role, government fixes rules in the area of land use planning. They help the municipalities in pursuing the noise control by-laws to decrease the sources of noise pollution. They also have provisions to check the noise levels immersing from consumer products, equipments and vehicles. And in municipal level role too, municipalities see to it that noise control bylaws are followed adequately in the provincial areas. (CBC News, Online).


The complexities of the noise immersing from the different corners of our lives create hurdles in the path of the government at different levels for effective application of the legislation.

Works Cited

Ban The Cannon. “The Impacts of Noise”. 2008. Web.

CBC News, “Noise regulations in Canada” 2008. Web.

Jaiswal P.S. & Jaiswal, Nistha. “Environmental Law”. New Delhi, India: Pioneer Publications, 2003.

“Noise Control by law 1988 No 2573”. (2004). Web.

Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers. “Noise Damages Hearing” 2005. Web.

SoundSmart. “What the City is Doing About Noise” (2008). Web.

Traux, Barry. “Acoustic Communication: Second Edition”. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001.

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