“Society now ignores noise the way it ignored the use of tobacco products in the ’50s”.
from Lisa Goines, Registered Nurse, and Louis Hagler, MD
“Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”
from Former U.S. Surgeon General William H Stewart.
IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE
For years now, more than four thousands four hundreds (4,400) Beaconsfield residents have been living in a “harmful to health ” zone It is caused by the overwhelming traffic noise from Highway 20. In fact, these residents suffer the harmful effects of noise levels of over 65 and 71 dBA on average over 24 hours. Thousands more Beaconsfield citizens are exposed to noise levels over 55 dBA (the maximum acceptable level).
Moreover, governments and health protection organizations deem it not acceptable for children who are in a school playground where traffic noise is above the 65 dBA level. Ecole primaire de Beaconsfield, Beaconsfield High School and CPE Le Petit Taylor (a daycare) are all located in this high-noise level zone. These students, plus the kids whose home is in that polluted area, are up to two thousand four hundreds children (2,400) who are spending at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year in a dangerous area (more than 65 dBA).
According to the World Health 0rganization (WHO) and other public health organizations, excessive noise can affect people in a variety of ways, including sleep disturbance, depression and interference with communication or concentration. These can lessen one’s efficiency and general wellbeing.
Particularly disturbing are measures taken over a period of twenty four hours, where high-level, fluctuating noises (such as road noise) over which individuals have no control. Noise kills in much the same way as chronic stress does, by causing an accumulation of stress hormones, inflammation and changes in body chemistry that eventually lead to problems such as impaired blood circulation and heart attacks. Such insidious effects on our health can happen even when we are asleep and unaware that we are exposed to it. In these instances, our bodies will produce a similar physiological response.
Findings of the WHO are echoed in findings of other government bodies (See reference) such as:
- Québec’s Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques,
- Montréal’s Direction de la santé publique (DSP),
- Ministère du Transport du Québec (MTQ) with it’s “Politique du bruit routier”
This video explains why noise is bad for your health.
Is this a new problem?
No In fact the noise pollution problem has been around for over 30 years. However, many infrastructure and demographic changes have exacerbated the problems:
- Traffic lights were replaced by underpasses (Woodland and Saint Charles);
- The “Toronto-Montreal boulevard” was transformed into the A-20, a limited access highway ;
- The speed limit was raised from 70 to 100 kph.;
- Rapid expansion of communities, like Vaudreuil and St. Lazare, have added an enormous volume to the daily traffic. A-20 traffic volumes reached 65,000 vehicles/day in 2013 (double the traffic of 1985), and continue to rise.
- Increased volume at higher speeds, will augment noise, which will continue to reach further into our community.
What about Air pollution ?
Overall, transport constitutes a major source of air pollution in urban environment.
Who better than kids can tell us about it ?
BBC News – April 8 2019 – https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-47831610/air-pollution-what-are-the-effects-on-humans
Note: Most of the following information is extracted from the 2006 Public Health Department report from the Quebec Health ministry see in our references
“The three major sources of atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gases (GHG), are industry, heating and transport. Transportation alone is at the origin of several types of air contaminants that preoccupy health protection organizations because of their impact on health, namely nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM), only to name the main ones.”Public Health Department, Quebec Health Ministry, see our reference
Two of these contaminants, NOx and VOCs are reacting under the effect of solar radiation and heat (by photochemical reaction), they produce ozone. A large share of these is attributable to transport and contributes very markedly to the ozone formation. Among the atmospheric pollutants, ozone must be especially noticed because its consequences on health.
Main impacts of air pollution on health
Vulnerability to effects of air pollutants vary widely from one individual to another. In fact, a WHO (World Health Organization) working group concluded in 2003 that there is no threshold for exposure to PM and ozone under which there are no effects on the health of the entire population. In other words, there are always people at risk, even at very low exposure levels.
Impact on our brain
Here is a BBC story and a video about studies linking air polution and bad behavior. Among others, it cites an MIT study that found that “air pollution predicted six major categories of crime”, including manslaughter, rape, robbery, and assault. The cities reaching highest pollution levels also had the highest crime rates.
Impact on seniors
A study by the Public Health Direction shows that the hospitalization risk for respiratory problems is higher among Montrealers aged 60 and over living along highways than in quieter streets.
Impact on children
Studies of children attending school near busy streets, or living in such a sector demonstrate an increase in respiratory symptoms and asthmatics in relation to the density of the circulation or the concentration of transport-related contaminants.
Following is a September 2019 CBC story about schools along highways in Montreal. Here are the web page, the audio news and the TV news :
CBC WEB NEWS – Sept 17 2019 – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/one-sixth-of-schools-in-montreal-dangerously-close-to-polluted-roads-analysis-1.5285475
Summary : Impacts of air pollution on our health
This next table summarizes the short and long term impacts of the transport-related air pollution on various vulnerable groups .
Much more information is available in our references section (see WHO and DSP – Public Health Direction – reports).